Last week, Republican lawmakers Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia) joined the President for a press conference as they unveiled the updated version of their bill, Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act. The RAISE Act was first introduced in February, and the senators are again trying to bring it back to life, this time with the vocal support and endorsement of the President.
The RAISE Act
The RAISE Act purports to take its provisions from immigration legislation enacted by Canada and Australia, two countries that utilize a points-based merit system in order to allot immigrant visa numbers each year. Some of the metrics that are involved in the points-based allotment would include the foreign national’s age (being between the ages of 26 and 31 would earn the applicant 10 points); education (if the foreign national possesses a bachelor’s degree, he or she would earn 5-6 points, and 7-8 points if the degree is a Master’s in one of the STEM fields); English language fluency skills (up to an extra 12 points are available for this category); and the offered salary (the foreign national may receive 5-13 points depending on how far the offered salary is above the prevailing wage).
One of the other major provisions of the Act would be to slash the number of green cards allotted each year from 1 million down to 500,000. However, the bill makes no mention of any pathway to lawful permanent residence for the estimated 11 million foreign nationals who are undocumented in the U.S. and who have been living in a state of flux for the past several years.
The RAISE Act would also eliminate the Diversity Visa program, which is sometimes known as the Diversity Lottery because it is a lottery system that provides approximately 50,000 green cards each year to foreign nationals from counties that did not have high immigration numbers to the United States in the previous year.
Moreover, the bill would also decrease the amount of refugees eligible for U.S. permanent residence to just 50,000 per year.
Criticism of the RAISE Act
In addition to the general criticism that the RAISE Act is racist because it requires English speaking skills, opponents of the bill are also decrying it because one of the provisions does away with green cards reserved for the siblings of adult U.S. citizens as well as adult children of lawful permanent residents (green card holders).
Interestingly, the RAISE Act is experiencing some opposition from Republican camps as well, primarily moderate Republicans and those who represent states with large immigrant populations. Additionally, what praise the bill has received can only be described as lukewarm at best. The group Numbers USA, which advocates for lower immigration quotas, called the bill a “step in the right direction,” and many rank-and-file Republican senators seem uneasy with signing onto an immigration bill that has been endorsed by the President. Others, particularly those who represent states with strong agriculture industries, are in favor of the spirit of the bill but want their particular state’s industry taken into consideration in its provisions.
The move to a merit-based system is commendable. However, the proposed framework of that system, along with a reduction in the flow of overall immigration, ignores some important economic realities here in the United States. The RAISE Act as proposed needs some major tweaks to avoid leaving us with a weaker economy instead of a stronger one.
The U.S. economy needs more legal immigration, not less.
Additional Blog Posts:
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012