White House-Backed Immigration Reform Set for Another Congressional Showdown

President Trump backing the RAISE Act at a White House announcement on August 2. (Public domain photo by White House Photographer Andrea Hanks.)

At the beginning of August, Republican Senators Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., received the strong backing of President Trump on their proposal for immigration reform. The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, commonly known as the RAISE Act, was first introduced by the two senators in February.

The RAISE Act comes with a familiar air of recommendations that were made in the 1990s to restrict immigration. However, this time there are definitive measures being taken to cut immigration to the United States by 50 percent over the next decade. Immigration restriction groups welcomed the president’s support for this proposal.

The RAISE Act would give preference to immediate family members and eliminate all familial sponsorship with exceptions to spouses and children classified as minors. This would aim to remove the chain migration phenomenon, in which extended families would send over relatives, who would send over their relatives and so forth.

According to the bill, after ten years of the proposed policy immigration levels are expected to drop to around 540,000 a year.

Another major change is the abolishment of the diversity visa lottery, which allows for a cap on individuals seeking visas from countries with low immigration statistics to the United States.

In addition to eliminating the diversity visa lottery which the senators say is “plagued by fraud,” they have added a cap on the number of refugees accepted into the country at 50,000.

A merit-based system will also be put into place in which preference would be given to highly skilled and educated visa applicants.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Budget Model indicates that this immigration bill, if taken into effect, would diminish around 1.3 million jobs by 2027 and decrease economic growth by 0.7%. The study includes job reductions from domestic workers that won’t fill the jobs that immigrant workers have continuously filled over the years.

Currently, it is unclear if the bill will pass through Congress as lawmakers are also planning to take on tax reform and no one has signed as co-sponsor to the RAISE Act and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been quiet on this piece of legislation.

On the other hand, Representative Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has been helping with immigration reform and is expected to introduce a companion bill in the House next month. Regardless, the RAISE Act would need a supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate to advance, necessitating several votes from Democrats.

Critics of this bill say that this proposal will dramatically change the current demographics of the country. Visa applicants from Latin American countries, along with refugees from other nations, with little to no education and no English-speaking abilities would be disadvantaged.

In addition, they argue that implementing a merit-based visa system would hinder the economy by hurting industries that consistently rely on low-skilled labor. Others argue that high-skilled workers will bring more to the economy.

Senators Cotton and Perdue state that the RAISE Act is not about restricting immigration for the purpose of restricting immigration, but rather to ensure that American workers are not forced out of their jobs.

With the irony that the United States has always been a nation built by immigrants and is the land of opportunity for immigrants, the million-dollar question still remains. Can this bill pass under Trump?

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