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By: Gurshaan Chattha

In February of 2017, Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue introduced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (“RAISE Act”). A brief summary of the RAISE Act follows:

  • The RAISE Act targets the family reunification component of the 1965 Immigration Act by giving visa preference only to immediate family and eliminating the diversity visa lottery, which allots a certain number of visas to countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.
  • It proposes a merit-based immigration system, which gives preference to highly-skilled and educated individuals. After 10 years, the measure projects that immigration levels would drop to nearly 540,000 a year, a 50 percent drop from the current rate.
  • Points systems are typically based on a list of characteristics that a country values, such as education, occupation, work experience, language ability, or age.
  • After determining all desired characteristics and point values, a country sets the total number of points that a person needs before being allowed to enter the host country; this is called the “pass mark.”
  • A maximum of 140,000 immigrant visas would be issued each fiscal year based on the points system. Spouses and minor children of the principal applicant would count against the 140,000 cap. This proposed cap on visas is the same quantity as currently allocated for employment-based visas only.
  • The allocation of points in both tiers would be based on a combination of factors, including age, education, English language proficiency, extraordinary achievement, a job offer, and intention to invest in the United States. Additionally, an applicant who has been granted admission under a family preference but who has not received a visa within one year of the law’s enactment would be eligible for extra points.
  • An applicant with a spouse who is accompanying or following to join would have to calculate the points the spouse would accrue if he or she were applying for a point-based immigration visa. If the points accrued by the spouse were lower than the points accrued by the applicant, the points accrued by the applicant would be adjusted.

-Statistics provided by American Immigration Council

On August 21, 2017, The Atlantic reported that President Trump publically endorsed this act by stating “the reforms in the RAISE Act will help ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American Dream.” This push by the President behind the RAISE Act was immediately applauded by immigration restricted groups.

The goals and idea contained in the RAISE Act are not necessarily new and were first introduced in the 1990s to overhaul the United States immigration system in order to reduce the number of immigrants in the United States. Unlike the past, where either Presidential or Congressional support has been against this reformation, the current White House is playing a major role in thrusting the proposal into the mainstream.

Arguments have been made from both sides as to the economic impact of a merit based immigration systems. Critics have pointed out that a merit based system would hinder and cripple industries that rely on low-skilled immigrant labor force. However, supporters of the bill argue the opposite in that a higher-skilled immigration system will contribute more to the overall economy and be beneficial to the country.

What route the Trump Administration plans to take with the Raise Act has become more complicated with the recent cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. One guess to what the Trump Administration will aim for, is creating a path for legalization of the Dreamers subject under DACA in exchange for concessions for complete Immigration reform such as the RAISE Act. Besides DACA, another issue that complicates any immigration reform is the Border Wall promised by Trump during his campaign. Like many pending actions with this administration, predicting any outcome has been extremely difficult. At this point we will have to wait and see if any major immigration reform is completed within the next three years.

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