Co-authored by Amalia J. Gemelas, summer associate, Alfredo Estrada, attorney, and Dana Rifai, partner

Full Name: The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act

Model: Australian and Canadian merit-based immigration systems

Supporters: In a press release on August 2, 2017, the bill was openly supported by President Donald Trump, and was introduced by Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and David Perdue of Georgia.

Purpose: The purpose provided by the Act’s supporters is to protect American workers, taxpayers, and the American economy by creating a merit based system to prioritize the most highly skilled immigrants. To support their positions, proponents of the bill argue that many legal immigrants coming to the United States are unskilled, drive down American working-class wages and extort America’s financial resources by being the largest class of welfare recipients.  By enacting the bill, supporters hope to preserve American jobs and resources, grant citizenship to immigrants who can assimilate into American culture and ensure that Americans and immigrants can achieve the “American Dream” by boosting the economy and increasing wages.

What does The RAISE Act do?

  • Amends certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”)
  • Hopes to cut legal immigration by at least half of its current numbers
  • Designed as a point-based system
  • Looks to individual merits of green card applicants:
    • Education
    • Age
    • English-language proficiency
    • High-paying job offers
    • Past achievements
    • Entrepreneurial initiative
  • Gives priority when issuing green cards to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens
    • A “minor child” must be below 18 years of age, rather than the prior standard under the INA of 21 years of age;
    • Extended family or adult children are no longer able to gain sponsorship of an immigrant visa from a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; and
    • S. citizens needing to take care of elderly parents may receive renewable temporary visas for them.
  • Gets rid of lottery system currently in place
  • Limits permanent residency status for refugees – 50,000 per year
  • Ends the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which granted 50,000 green cards to prospective immigrants from countries with few immigrants coming to the U.S.

The Result: The RAISE Act has not been enacted, so only time will tell what effect the Act will have on immigration. Opponents of the RAISE Act warn that the bill is counterproductive to its purpose because it does not reflect the needs of American businesses and would likely separate family members who are not spouses, or minor children. (Ex. A U.S. Citizen’s child who just turned 18 may be denied a green card based on family preference because he is no longer a minor).

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