President Donald Trump stood before the American people this week and announced his support to the RAISE Act, proposed legislation which would eventually reduce legal immigration to the United States by 50%.
Republican Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton introduced the bill, which would create a skills-based immigration system.
Trump claims that the bill would protect American workers by reducing unskilled immigration and create a merit-based system that would analyze an immigrant’s ability to work in the U.S. before any visas were granted.
In his press conference, Trump said that the current system “has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.”
The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act would “restore legal immigration to their historical norms and rebalanc[e] the system toward employment-based visas and immediate-family household members.”
The President’s point man on immigration, Stephen Miller, explicitly stated that the Trump administration wants to restrict “chain immigration” by limiting the types of family members of immigrants to only spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
This would eliminate sibling visas and visas for adult children (over 21 years of age).
The RAISE act would also eliminate the diversity visa program, a policy that sets aside 50,000 visas each year for people who come from underrepresented countries around the world.
The proposal would create a grading system for new immigrants where the prospective green card holders would be judged on their median salary, advanced degrees, ability to speak English, skills needed by the economy and whether they could obtain their own health care.
The Republican hard-liners seem especially interested in this English ability requirement. They spent a lot of time at both conferences talking about this rule.
Also, according to Miller and Trump, allowing too many family members of immigrants who come to the U.S. are not skilled enough.
In their respective press conferences, the President and Miller made a number of false statements about immigrants, including:
The claim that immigrants are a drain on society. Anyone with a basic understanding of the American economy knows that immigrants start many more businesses than their native-born counterparts.
The claim that unskilled immigrants come to the U.S. and immediately obtain public benefits. Current U.S. immigration law requires that people who come to the U.S. on green cards have a financial sponsor who agrees to pay back any government benefits that the immigrant may receive.
The claim that illegal immigration is down 80% since Trump took office. While border crossings are down, they are nowhere near the drop claimed by the President.
The claim that 1 in 4 native-born Americans are not able to find jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statisics, 1 in 4 Americans in prime working age are not working, but 89% of those people don’t want jobs in the first place. In addition, these numbers were worse in the 1970s when women were not in the workforce.
It is not expected that the bill will go very far in Congress. Respected South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham has already voiced his opposition to the bill. Other Senators on both sides of the aisle have also voiced skepticism over the bill. In addition, Republican John McCain recently promised to reintroduce a bipartisan bill with meaningful comprehensive immigration reform which would be vastly different than the Cotton/Purdue RAISE Act.
Trump and his allies in Congress have been unable to pass any meaningful legislation thus far so it remains to see if this bill will become law.