U.S. Senators David Purdue and Tom Cotton’s bill Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy Act (RAISE Act) has received a key congressional endorsement in its efforts to move towards being the law. After receiving President Trump’s endorsement in August, key elements of the bill are now being endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The RAISE Act would introduce a “merit-based” points system for immigration. This would replace the U.S.’s current lottery system. Employment based visas would be capped at 140,000 under the bill and priority would go to highly educated, English-speaking candidates with skill sets not easily found within in the U.S. pool of workers. The bill would also end “chain migration” by radically eliminating ALL family-based legal immigration categories except for spouses and minor children of citizens and permanent residents. The cutoff for the definition of child would change from 21 to 18.
The bill would also eliminate the controversial diversity lottery which grants up to 55,000 immigrant visas each year. The number of refugees admitted to the country would be cut in half to approximately 50,000. The number of green cards would be slashed 50% over the next decade with a 41% decrease in the first year.
The senator from Kentucky, McConnell has said that he supports Purdue and Cotton’s argument that changes to the legal immigration system should be coupled with any legislation to replace DACA. The danger in coupling legal immigration with policies for undocumented persons is that legal immigration has a strong impact on the economy. Companies use employment-based visas to hire critical personnel to support their options. These employees fill hard to fill or temporary positions for which U.S. workers are not available or not qualified. Changing to a merit-based immigration system drastically limits employer’s ability to hire the workers they need and want. Also, capping the number of employment-based immigrants at 140,0000 would exacerbate the shortage of high skilled workers in this country.
In July the Washington Post surveyed 18 economists. 89% believed it was economically detrimental to curb legal immigration in the United States. “Restricting immigration will only condemn us to chronically low rates of economic growth,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “It also increases the risk of a recession.”
The RAISE Act proponents argue that the bill is modeled on the immigration systems of Canada and Australia. However, these countries admit a much larger percentage of immigrants relative to their population than the United States. In 2013, .74 percent of Canada’s population and 1.1 percent of Australia’s populations was new immigrants. The same year, new immigrants only constituted .31 percent of the population.
In April, 1400 economists sent President Trump a letter urging him not to cut legal immigration. The letter stated that there was “near universal agreement” on the economic benefits of immigrants to this country and that cutting immigration by 50% would be “absolutely harmful.”
Immigrants pack a powerful economic punch. In addition to creating jobs for Americans, Immigrants earned $1.3 trillion and contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes and nearly $224 billion in federal taxes in 2014, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. In 2014, immigrants wielded $927 billion in consumer spending power. Though immigrants make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they contribute nearly 15 percent of the country’s economic output, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.
The United States needs more workers to grow. The percentage of Americans who work is at its lowest since 1970, and will only decline as the Baby Boomer population ages. In addition, the U.S. birthrate recently hit a historic low. To avoid a crisis is worker shortage and a stagnating economy, the U.S. must develop policies that expand immigration