Early in August of this year the current occupant of the White House, flanked by Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia, stood beneath the painting of Theodore Roosevelt galloping forward on a black horse. The occasion for this threesome’s presence in the Roosevelt Room of the White House’ West Wing, was the announcement of Trump’s support for enactment of the RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Stronger Employment). This was heralded on high by the immigration restrictionists in Congress and the die-hard right wing believers and Trump’s base of “America for Americans”. The irony of statements such as these is those who seem to cheer on this anti-immigration sentiment are descendants of immigrants themselves! But then reason and logic are not high on the list of critical thinking with these folks. If “stronger employment” is what this Act is all about, it neither makes us economically stronger or creates any more jobs for those who Trump supposedly championed during his campaign.
The essential elements of the RAISE Act are centered around the goal of restricting legal immigration. The intent of the proposed legislation is to reduce legal immigration by 50% over the next ten years. Key to this attempt would be to limit the number of “green cards”(a permanent residence card) given to approximately 1 million legal immigrants annually to 500,000.
To achieve this reduction in legal immigration, 140,000 employment based green cards are given out each year to foreign nationals who have exceptional ability and recognition in the field of science, technology, the arts, literature, athletics and other fields. The proposed legislation would scrap the current criteria for employment based green cards and put in place a point system to determine who would be able to get one of those cards. The point system would require applicants to score 30 points or higher for acceptance. The following criteria would be used:
- Persons over 50 years old would receive no points. Younger persons 18-30 would receive 2-10 points depending on their age.
- The applicant would have to prove competence in the English language determined by a passing score on an English proficiency test such as the TOEFL, the most widely used assessment of English proficiency.
- Candidates for green card status would receive points for their highest level of educational achievement 1 point for a high school diploma or GED to a maximum of 13 points for an earned doctorate.
- Interestingly an applicant could receive 15 points for and Olympic medal or 25 points for a Nobel Peace Prize. Given that criteria President Obama ,despite Trump’s “birther” efforts, would have had no problem entering the country! The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to United States President Barack Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. That bit of information should cause some heartburn among the haters, bigots, white supremacists and other “America First” followers.
- 13 points can be awarded if the applicant has ah igher than the mean average of income in the state where the employment is located.
- 12 points can be earned if the candidate makes an investment in an American company of $1.8 million dollars.
- The proposed legislation essentially ends the ability to enter the United States through extended family already living here. Preference would be given to spouses and children under 18.
- The Diversity Lottery Program is a way for an immigrant to achieve legal status if they don’t have a job or employment offer and/or have no extended in the United States. Several million potential immigrants apply for the lottery every year. Only 50,000 are successful. The proposed legislation would completely terminate this program.
- Refugee admissions would be cut in half to 50,000. However, the proposed legislation does not make changes to the visas for seasonal guest workers. This is obviously a wink and nod to big agriculture. It is fairly common knowledge that Big Ag is having difficulty finding workers to help plant and harvest their crops. If you live in the Southwest where I live you have a whole new appreciation for a head of lettuce, a small bunch of broccoli, a bag of oranges, a can of almonds, and all varieties of melons. Guest workers from Mexico and Latin American toil eight hours a day in the desert heat and sun to hand pick the food that ends up on your table. My recommendation is don’t malign these people with your mouth full. Most of us wouldn’t last an hour doing what they do.
The proposed RAISE Act, which first appeared in the Senate in February 20 is nothing more than the latest attempt by the far right element in Congress to restrict legal immigration into the United States. Senate Bill 354 is the creation of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton with assistance in drafting from no less White House Alt-Right masterminds than Steve Miller and Steven Bannon. These two are hardly champions of immigration of any kind, but it explains why Trump heralded the proposed legislation with much hyperbole, especially when promising our unskilled, lower skilled, and high school or less workers they will have less competition for jobs, more job security and higher wages. To hear Trump and other “conservative” Republicans, one would think immigration whether legal or not is the root cause of all our economic and social problems. Any rational and informed person knows it isn’t that simple.
What effects the fears and securities of some American workers is not immigration but the rate of economic and social change which is brought about by the rapid advancement of technology and globalization. Think about it. How many flat cell phones did you see in the hip pockets of young Americans twenty years ago? How many fields of solar panels did you see in areas of the country with abundant sunshine? Have you ever seen a line of goliath turbines whirling in the wind across a prairie landscape? Have you or someone you know ever had a medical MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)? Did you ever think you could drive a vehicle that got 45 mpg? These are new industries created by the advancement of certain technologies. They and others are the future of job growth and higher earnings in America. The old technologies of the Industrial Age are gone or rapidly declining. Immigration is not the culprit. It just an easy target for political gain among those on the far right.
The good news is that The RAISE Act has little chance of success in the foreseeable future. Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority in the Senate have bigger fish to fry. The RAISE Act with only one sponsor (Perdue) will hardly be foremost on McConnell’s agenda.
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