With each passing day of the Trump Administration, immigrants and aspiring green card holders are holding their breath as the fate of the U.S. immigration system continues to stand on shaky ground. With the recent introduction of an unprecedented anti-immigrant proposal on the Senate floor, immigration policy in the U.S. is looking poised to be turned upside down.
Recently Donald Trump announced his support of the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act, a conservative bill that is aiming to slash legal immigration to the U.S. in half by 2027.
We’re breaking down the unprecedented bill to explore what the act entails, how this proposed system will function, and who it will affect.
What exactly is the RAISE Act?
This proposal has been introduced to the U.S. Senate by conservative Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA). The bill would cut legal immigration to the United States in half, making the system significantly more selective by qualifying higher skill, education, and income levels.
The legislation would also cut off refugee admissions at 50,000 per year, and it would altogether eliminate the international visa lottery.
The goal of the bill is to significantly decrease the influx of legal immigrants to the United States and increase the ratio of immigrants with high income and desirable skills according to lawmakers. The Senators purport that this bill will stimulate the economy and create more job opportunities for Americans.
How will the proposed immigration system work?
Under the RAISE Act, green card applicants will be evaluated by an immigration points system. Applicants would need at least 30 points to be eligible to apply for a visa, which would take into consideration each applicant’s age, education level, English-language skills, job offer salary and investments. The system would also put an emphasis on special accolades such an Olympic Medal or Nobel Peace Prize.
TIME recently created an interactive quiz in which users could see if they would be able eligible to immigrate to the United States under RAISE Act qualifications, and surprise: It’s remarkably hard to reach the 30 point minimum.
The conservative lawmakers behind the bill seem to favor applicants from ages 26-30 who have a doctorate degree, are fluent English speakers, have a starting salary of almost $160,000, or are looking to invest about $1.8 million for a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. Those most disadvantaged are children, the elderly, non-English speakers and those with lower education or salary levels.
Who and what will it affect?
The bill, if passed, will ultimately amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, which in 1965 abolished immigration quotas based on nationality. Also called the Hart-Celler Act, the measure dramatically changed the racial makeup of the United States.The act not only made the nation not only more diverse, but it also provided the U.S. with immigrant labor that filled in the gaps of the American workforce.
The RAISE Act opts for a merit-based system, neglecting any prior immigration goals of reuniting families in the United States. Enacting this bill will make it significantly harder for Asians, Africans, Latin Americans and Middle Easterners to come to the U.S. legally, and will keep immigrant families separated.
Time and time again has immigration also proven to be good for the American economy. The U.S. economy gravely depends on immigrant labor for economic growth, especially since Baby Boomers are aging. There are also 5.7 million job openings in the U.S. today, countering conservative sentiment that jobs are few and far between, and that immigrants are “stealing” American jobs.
In fact, restricting immigration will only lead the nation to low rates of economic growth, according to Global Economist Bernard Baumohl in a Washington Post article.
If immigration doesn’t actually hurt the economy like conservative lawmakers purport, what is the RAISE Act other than a guise to enforce nativism and xenophobia? Enacting this bill could potentially reverse these demographic changes, tear families apart and potentially destroy the fabrics of American society.