Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trump Style – The Raise Act

On August 2, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a new comprehensive immigration reform bill — Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act. The plan was endorsed by President Trump on the same day.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) summarizes the highlights of this immigration reform bill:

  • Aims to cut immigration by at least half from current levels without a reasonable correlation to family reunification or the economic needs of our nation and which would mark a major shift in U.S. immigration law
  • Creates a “merit-based” system that fails to take into account the needs of U.S. businesses
  • All but eliminates family-based immigration, by restricting U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsoring only spouses and minor children for green cards
  • Reduces the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to 50,000 per year, from levels of near 100,000 for years and contrary to our nation’s proud tradition of serving as a beacon of hope for people fleeing persecution
  • Ends the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program which has awarded 50,000 green cards annually to people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S.

Annaluisa Padilla, AILA President, noted, “The RAISE Act repudiates our national ethos, which recognizes the value of keeping families together to create a stronger nation. Contrary to President Trump’s claims on the campaign trail and the motives of this bill, immigrants are a boon to our local and national economies and communities. This Act would force close family members, including parents, brothers, and sisters to live apart, perhaps for their entire lives and is truly an attack on family unification.”

While a merits-based system is not new and has gathered steam in prior immigration reform bills, the question is who is getting the brownie points in this one? – answer – pretty much only high-skilled workers and predominantly from China and India.

In 2016, 617,752 immigrant visas or “green cards” were issued at foreign service posts. More than half of those went to immediate family members. Immediate family members are spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens. More than 200,000 immigrant visas were awarded to extended family members, while 25,056 people immigrated to the U.S. with employment preference immigrant visas. Another 45,664 came to the U.S. with a diversity lottery visa. The remainder of immigrant visas were awarded via special programs. In addition to those awarded immigrant visas, in 2016, nearly 85,000 came to the U.S. as refugees.

University of Pennsylvania Wharton Budget Model created this Table to show how the Raise Act would impact the numbers above:

Selected Visa Types Number of visas issued at foreign service posts in 2016 RAISE Act
Extended family preference 215,498 Eliminated
Employment preference 25,056 Awarded with a skills-based points system
Diversity lottery 45,664 Eliminated
Refugee 85,000 50,000 cap

Sponsors of the RAISE Act expect it to reduce legal immigration by about 40 percent in the first year, with reductions rising to 50 percent by year 10. In addition, the sponsors expect the bill to increase the portion of legal immigrants with college degrees.

Using the Penn Wharton budget model, the model predicts that by 2027, RAISE will reduce GDP by 0.7 percent relative to current law, and reduce jobs by 1.3 million. By 2040, GDP will be about 2 percent lower and jobs will fall by 4.6 million.  Penn Wharton is not alone in its assessment. According to a survey of economists in July conducted by the Washington Post, “89 percent believe it’s a terrible idea for Trump to curb immigration to the United States. Experts overwhelmingly predict it would slow growth — the exact opposite of what Trump wants to do.

Economic impact of the Raise Act thus far is not living up to its name. For further information about immigration reform bills and updates that may impact you or your Colorado business, please contact Boulder lawyer, Catherine Brown at 303-322-2117.