RAISE Act: New Bill Would Alter Shape of US Immigration System

President Trump, alongside bill sponsors, Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia), introduced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act.  It appears that an immigration fight is brewing amongst the GOP, exposing many divisions within the party itself.   The legislation is not expected to gain traction since it would need 60 votes in the Senate, including the support of at least eight Democrats and every Republican senator — a scenario that appears highly unlikely. 

At first blush, the RAISE Act sounds logical enough: move to a points based system similar to that in Canada and Australia.  Encourage English skills of would-be applicants.  Attract highly skilled workers.  Yet, the impact would be to cut legal immigration by nearly half and vastly diminish or eliminate the programs that lend diversity to the nation.  The potential economic impact is also dramatic; many economists forecast that implementation of this legislation could slow economic growth and even risk another recession.

Notable changes to the immigration system as outlined by the RAISE Act include:

  •  Elimination of the Diversity Visa Program (also known as the Green Card Lottery)
  •  Limiting refugee admissions to 50,000 per year

Family Based Immigration would be dramatically impacted under the proposed plan, including:

  • Changing the definition of “child” from 21 to 18 years of age.  This would reduce the number of beneficiaries who qualify through their parent’s employment based applications.
  • Parents of US Citizens would no longer be considered “Immediate Relatives”.  Parents must apply for a separate non-immigrant visa with limitations.
  • Spouses and minor children of permanent residents will remain eligible for green cards, but visa usage assignment may be so limited as to all but foreclose real use of this category.
  •  Elimination of family based categories such as siblings of US citizens and adult children of US citizens.

Employment Based immigration would be overhauled to a point-based system under the bill's provisions.  Changes include:

  • Elimination of the physician’s national interest waiver program (PNIW).
  • Spouses and children would be counted against quota numbers, thereby reducing the number of total green cards available to high-skilled workers.
  • Points allocations will be made based on factors including educational degree, salary offered, English skills, type of occupation (such as STEM).
  • Quota numbers are to be divided with a limit of 50% being available each six month period.
  • Per country quotas will be eliminated.
  • The EB-5 program would be eliminated.

Ellis Porter remains optimistic that the bill will not advance since Democratic senators are showing no immediate signs of support. The earlier version of the legislation, introduced in February, garnered zero cosponsors.