Trump-endorsed RAISE Act would hurt economy — and immigrant families

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service building in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by USCIS via Twitter.)

If we could give points for the most mean-spirited, misleading, and most un-American bill ever introduced, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act  — or “RAISE” Act — would win hands down.

The draconian bill was introduced in the Senate last week by Republicans Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.

President Donald Trump touted the plan as strengthening the economy. In reality, it would do anything but that. Rather it strips away at the core value of “family” that we as Americans cherish.

In addition to eliminating the Diversity Lottery program, which allows 50,000 people to permanently reside in the United States without a job or family already here, I will list some of the highlights of what the RAISE Act would do.

Parents of U.S. citizens would no longer be recognized as “immediate relatives,” and U.S. citizens would not be able to sponsor their parents for green cards. Instead, parents could be sponsored for non-immigrant visas valid for up to 5 years. Parents would have to prove that they can support themselves and have medical insurance in advance. How does this strengthen the US economy?

The age of a dependent child would be lowered from 21 years to 18 years. What? There was a reason Obamacare included children up to the age of 26 to be covered under their parents’ medical insurance. How does this strengthen the US economy?

Refugee numbers would be capped at 50,000 per year. Nicky Smith, executive director of the International Rescue Committee, told me on my weekly radio show Tahmina Talks Immigration, that the world has the most displaced people in history and the U.S. already is the country that takes the least number of refugees. Nicky told me that studies show that every $1 spent on refugees generates $3 back to the economy. How does capping refugee numbers strengthen the US economy?

The plan also complicates existing immigration programs.

Asylum numbers will be determined by the president himself based on the previous year’s asylum numbers. Asylum applications take years to adjudicate. Don’t forget people who are applying for asylum are doing it because their lives are in danger in their own countries.

Total family-based green card numbers will be reduced from a base of 226,000 people to 88,000 people. But the 88,000 total will count people who were given permission to enter to the U.S. but didn’t leave, also known as parole.

It would invalidate applications that were filed and are pending from the date this bill was introduced, Aug. 3 2017. Normally you would have to wait for a bill to become law before a cutoff date is set. Usually, pending cases are grandfathered into a new program when a new law is enacted. Not invalidated before the bill passes.

But the most touted spectacle of this bill is the merits points system for green cards. Getting a green card would be a competitive process with the number of employment-based permanent residents capped at 140,000, including children and spouses.

Points would be given for education, English proficiency, salary and high achievements — for example, a Nobel Prize or an Olympic gold medal — and, lastly, financial investment. Experience counts for nothing.

The younger you are, the more points you get. A 40-year-old hitting a career peak gets 2 points. And if you are a wise experienced 51-year-old? No points. At least they let you apply.

The application would be submitted electronically. This is a joke — USCIS has been trying to implement an electronic system for years. It just doesn’t work. They recently introduced the electronic submission of one form (I-90) in the past week. But to have green card applications filed on a broken system? Wishful thinking if you ask me.

Eligibility for a points based green card would be limited to 12 months. After a year, an applicant would need to apply afresh. It seems no one told the senators or the White House about the decades long backlog? But this somehow strengthens the economy.

An applicant invited to apply for a green card after the online submission would get 90 days to file. You would have to prove you have a job offer that would not displace a US worker and that you have health insurance, either through the employer or through a bond you post. There is no guidance on how to prove that an immigrant would not displace a U.S. worker.

And it also would bar citizenship to anyone who filed to sponsor a family member but owes the federal government money.

And there you have it. The grand plan to strengthening the economy. I don’t see where the “strengthening” part of the bill exists here. Do you? It is clear that those who envisioned and drafted this bill, have no idea about immigration law. The bill is introduced simply to create sound bites of fear mongering, inflict cruelty and cause anxiety about immigrants.

If the administration does in fact want to introduce immigration reform with a sincere intention to take action, I would suggest starting with the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill S.744 that passed in the Senate. It was a bipartisan bill. The bill actually created a thoughtful and acceptable merit-based program. For anyone interested in that merit based program, here is my handy-dandy chart on it.

If you are a reader who cares about strengthening the U.S. economy, then look at our neighbors to the north. I dare you not to be inspired by their actions. Canada is looking at immigrants as an economic stimulus and is strengthening its economy through immigration. We are not, and the RAISE Act is proof. Call your senators and urge them to shut the this down.