August 7, 2017
Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA)
the White House along with President Trump, speaking in support
of the RAISE Act. (Photo Credit: Migration Policy Institute)
President Trump has endorsed a bill introduced by far right senators, Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) called the “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act” or RAISE Act. This bill doesn’t target undocumented immigrants, instead, it seeks to drastically reduce legal immigration. The bill would cap the number of people who receive green cards at 500,000, a fifty percent decrease from the current number. The RAISE Act also proposes a change to the process that new immigrants go through to get a green card. The bill would start using a points based immigration system. This means that applicants for a green card would be awarded points based on job skills, proficiency in English, and other factors. Candidates with the most points would be able to achieve residency status in the US. The RAISE Act would also place a cap of 50,000 on the number of refugees admitted to the US. Another drastic measure which the RAISE Act will enact if it is passed is the halting of admissions of new immigrants based on family relationships in the US for siblings and adult children of Americans.
The RAISE Act would spell disaster for several sectors of the economy and would break with long-standing American policy. The bill is a way for extreme Republican senators to appease xenophobic members of their base. The RAISE Act would do little to benefit the economy but would devastate sectors that rely heavily on immigrant labor. In addition, the new restrictions of refugees would make legal status harder to achieve for people who depend on it for their lives. The Trump Administration’s anti-refugee policies have already resulted in thousands of people leaving the United States to seek safety in neighboring Canada. Proponents of the RAISE Act’s “merit based” admission system cite that this procedure is used in Canada and Australia, however, they fail to realize that both of these countries allow in more immigrants as a percentage of their populations. Historically, most of the immigrants that have made up the backbone of the US have been poorer, lower skilled people. The American population is aging quickly and new immigrants are crucial to replenishing the workforce as the Baby Boomer generation ages and retires. Immigrants also start businesses at a higher rate than native-born citizens, according to the Small Business Administration. Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that almost half of all private sector jobs are in small businesses and 64% of all new private sector jobs are in small business. Far from taking American jobs, immigrants are constantly creating new wealth and employment opportunities for American citizens. The new immigration system proposed by the RAISE Act would also likely change the ethnic makeup of immigrants coming to the US. Because wealthier, English-speaking immigrants with higher education would be preferred, more Europeans would be granted legal status. Most European countries are wealthier and have higher English speaking populations than countries in other regions of the world. The RAISE Act would, therefore, cause much more of the immigrant population to be White.
Perhaps most ironically, President Trump’s grandfather, Frederick Trump was a low skilled immigrant from Germany. People who seek to immigrate to the US in a fashion similar to him as well as the ancestors of other supporters of immigration restrictions would have likely not been able to enter under restrictive policies like the RAISE Act. Additionally, President Trump’s wife, Melania Trump would have been affected by the lower number of green cards issued under the RAISE Act if she were to try to gain entry into the United States under similar laws.
Luckily, enough Republicans have declared opposition to the RAISE Act for the bill to fail. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate and several Republican senators have already expressed concerns about the basic premise of reducing legal immigration. However, opponents of this disastrous legislation cannot be complacent. There are definitely strong elements of the Republican caucus who support xenophobic cuts to immigration. A lack of Republican legislative achievements so far also increases the likelihood that some moderate Republican representatives and senators will try to get the RAISE Act passed.
For Democrats, the best way to fight the RAISE Act is to harness grassroots opposition in states with high immigrant populations that also have Republican senators. Senators Jeff Flake from Arizona and Dean Heller from Nevada both come from states with high immigrant populations and are running for reelection in 2018. Other moderate Republican senators who depend on immigrant votes include John McCain (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Large numbers of constituents contacting senators have helped convince senators to change their votes in the past. Making sure that Senators from states with high immigrant populations know that a large portion of their constituents opposes xenophobic legislation like the RAISE Act can ultimately result in the defeat of this bill and other bills like it. If you live in the following states, be sure to let your senator know that you do not approve of the RAISE Act:
- Colorado -Cory Gardner (202) 224-5941 or visit Senator Gardner’s official website to send a written message.
- Florida-Marco Rubio (202) 224-3041 or send an email through Senator Rubio’s official website.
- Nevada-Dean Heller (202) 224-6244 or send an email through Senator Heller’s website.
- Arizona-Jeff Flake (202) 224-4521 or send an email through Senator Flake’s official website.
- Arizona-John McCain (202) 224-2235 or send an email through Senator McCain’s official website.
Immigrants being sworn in as new American citizens in Seattle, Washington. (Photo credit: Murray.Seattle.gov)