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The RAISE Act Explained

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At the beginning of August, President Donald Trump supported a bill—the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act—that puts immigration squarely in the administration’s targets and would cut the amount of legal immigration in half by 2027. Although the bill has little chance of being passed, as it has already been met with opposition by members of both parties, it paints a clear picture of the Trump administration’s immigration goals, while once again bringing immigration to the forefront of the U.S. consciousness. Despite the unlikelihood of this bill being passed, we believe it’s important to understand the major points of the RAISE Act, and the dramatic effect it could have on United States’ families, businesses, and economy.  
Creating a Skill-Based Immigration System
Supporters of the RAISE Act tout that it will create a skills-based immigration system, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, the RAISE Act does nothing to increase the number of visas available for highly skilled immigrants—the number will remain static at 140,000 (including spouses and children); instead, it merely increases the proportional amount of high-skilled visas by eliminating other programs such as family reunification and diversity visas. However, the RAISE Act will change how the U.S. determines who is highly skilled, by instituting a point-based system with points being awarded for everything from age, degree, and English proficiency to having an extraordinary accomplishment such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal. 
Claims that the RAISE Act will bring the U.S. closer to other merit-based immigration systems like Canada’s and Australia’s are also overblown. While it’s true that Canada and Australia favor high-skilled immigration over family members, both systems admit far more immigrants than the U.S. For example, according to the Cato Institute, for the RAISE Act to mirror Australia's “skills-based immigration system then it would have to increase employment-based immigration to about 852,000 annually—an 11.4-fold increase.”
Restrict Family Reunification 
Today, legal permanent U.S. residents can sponsor spouses, minor children, unmarried adult children, and siblings. As a result, two-thirds of all immigrants achieve legal status through family ties, either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or as family-sponsored preferences. Under the RAISE Act, the prioritization of unmarried adult children, as well as siblings, will cease. In addition, a cap of 88,000 admissions per year will be placed on family-based admissions. While this may seem like a large number, under the current visa system, we allow 480,000 and there is still a huge back log for visas.
Supporters of the RAISE Act argue that highly skilled individuals should be prioritized over family members, yet the RAISE Act does nothing to redistribute family visas to the highly skilled—it only eliminates qualifying people from this visa. Furthermore, critics argue that people with families already established in the U.S. are in the best position to integrate and contribute to the U.S. 
Eliminate the Diversity Visa
The diversity visa program, sometimes called the green card lottery, makes 50,000 visas available annually to people from countries from which fewer than 50,000 people have immigrated to the U.S. over the previous five years. The visa lottery winners are chosen at random, having to meet a few minor benchmarks, such as having no criminal history, a high school education, and certain financial requirements. The DV Lottery represents a very small fraction of the U.S.’s immigrant intake. For example, 50,000 diversity immigrants seems miniscule when you consider that, in 2015, about 550,000 people immigrated to the U.S. and 11 million temporary visas were given out. Most importantly, defenders of the diversity visa program believe it serves to offer the hope and opportunity of the American dream to people across the world, regardless of education, religion, or region, and helps the United States remain the world’s melting pot. 
Cuts Back On Refugees 
The RAISE Act will also cap refugee resettlement at 50,000 people per year, putting a firm limit on a program that had formerly been at the discretion of the President. It also is far below former President Barack Obama’s proposed goal of resettling 110,000 refugees annually. 
Restricting the admission of refugees will put the U.S. further behind its European counterparts when it comes to resettling one of the world’s most vulnerable groups. According to the BBC, in 2015 Germany approved 140,910 asylum applications, France approved 20,630, and Sweden approved 32,215. Now consider that the approximate populations of those counties when compared to the 320 million people in the United States: 82 million people in Germany, 66 million people in France, and 10 million people in Sweden. These countries are not only taking in a higher percentage of refugees compared to their population—they are taking a leadership position in refugee resettlement while the U.S. takes a backseat.     
The Takeaway 
The RAISE Act does little to benefit the United States, and the truth is that many of the proposed changes are more likely to have a negative outcome than a positive one. Numerous studies have shown the vital role immigrants play in the U.S. workforce, job creation, and economy as a whole. As native-born employees begin to age out of the workforce, immigrants are crucial to filling the vacant positions, as well as taking care of an older population. In addition, the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants in the U.S. has been a valuable contributor to the growth of the U.S. economy, as we have written many times in our blawgs, Pulse articles, and Medium pieces. 
GoffWilson exclusively practices immigration law throughout the US, and for the last thirty years we’ve championed the important and vital role immigrants play in the fabric of the nation. From helping families come to the U.S. in search of a better life to helping employers gain access to the global talent pool and helping businesses put down roots in the U.S., GoffWilson has been a proud partner in the journey. Contact GoffWilson today to learn how we can help your family or business successfully live in the US. 
Filed under:Immigration Law, Immigration Reform