Washington – President Donald Trump, along with GOP senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, announced new proposals on legal immigration yesterday. The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act prioritizes skill and merit, to ensure prospective incomers are highly-skilled, economically self-sufficient, and contributing members of the economy.
“This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and puts America first,” Trump said during an event Wednesday in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.
This announcement comes as no surprise as Trump had extensively campaigned on protecting borders and American workers from legal and illegal immigration. Although the administration in its early days has been focusing on combating illegal immigration, specifically, violent illegal immigrants, the proposed GOP plan will only affect policy specific to Green Cards.
Green Cards are permanent residency cards that allow the holder(s) to become non-citizens, who can enter/exit the country as per their will and seek employment as well. There have been reports of widespread abuse of such programs, and the new proposed plan aims to revamp the current issuance and appraisal guidelines.
Perdue and Cotton’s legislation would replace the current process for obtaining legal permanent residency, or green cards, creating a skills-based point system for employment visas. The bill would also eliminate the preference for U.S. residents’ extended and adult family members, while maintaining priority for their spouses and minor children. Overall, immigration would be slashed 41 percent in the legislation’s first year and 50 percent in its 10th, according to projection models cited by the bill’s sponsors.
Additionally, the bill would create a new points-based system for applicants seeking to become legal permanent residents, favoring those who can speak English, have high-paying job offers, can financially support themselves and offer skills that would contribute to the U.S. economy. These individuals will also be disqualified from welfare payments for a period of time, ensuring decreased dependency on state support.
Critics have indicated otherwise, noting recent immigration trends don’t appear to have hurt wages significantly. They also point towards faster economic growth because of competition spurred by an increased pool in the workforce. The bill’s supporters counter by claiming such reform will make the US more competitive as it will raise wages and create jobs.
Despite the noise, there is a long way to go until this proposal becomes law. The RAISE Act is bound to evolve as Congress deliberates and conferences on the fine points of the bill. To many people’s surprise, the much-debated and misused H-1B or H-2B visas are not targeted under such a legislation. Still, tech companies and executives have already voiced their concerns, citing uncertainty for their workers. Outside the tech community, many have a 50-50 view on such legislation. Experts believe a switch to a merit-based system is only reasonable and definitely in the US interest. However, deep cuts to the total number of legal immigrants are counter-productive. This might defeat the purpose of switching to a merit-based system and makes little sense to then limit the number of new highly-skilled workers.