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President Trump Pushes Yet Another Problematic Immigration Bill

President Trump, flanked by Sens. Tom Cotton, left, and David Perdue, unveils a plan to impose new limits on legal immigration. (Evan Vucci / AP)

President Trump on Wednesday endorsed a new GOP Senate bill that would slash legal immigration levels over a decade, apparently aimed at dramatically reducing legal immigration overall. The bill is a modified version of legislation proposed in April, which would have cut immigration in half, and focuses on cutting back what is known as “chain migration”—ways of immigrating to the U.S. based on family ties.

The new Republican bill, called the RAISE Act (short for Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act) is co-authored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue. It would alter the immigration screening process to favor English speakers with the purported ability to support themselves financially and demonstrate skills that will benefit the economy. It would also, according to the president, prohibit recently arrived green-card holders from receiving welfare. Trump problematically referred to this as a “merit-based” system on Wednesday.

Writes The Washington Post:

To achieve the reductions and create what they call a “merit-based system,” Cotton and Perdue are taking aim at green cards for extended family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, limiting such avenues for grown children and siblings. Minor children and spouses would still be eligible to apply for green cards.

The senators also propose to end a visa diversity lottery that has awarded 50,000 green cards a year, mostly to areas in the world that traditionally do not have as many immigrants to the United States, including Africa. And the bill caps refugee levels at 50,000 per year.

Trump declares the bill to be the most significant immigration reform in half a century. He says that one of the main motivations to pass the bill is to prevent the displacement of American workers—a claim that’s echoed by Cotton, who has said that while immigrant rights groups might view the current system as a “symbol of American virtue and generosity,” he sees it “as a symbol we’re not committed to working-class Americans and we need to change that.”

To the contrary, studies suggest this evaluation is somewhat misleading:

The (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine) report assembles research from 14 leading economists, demographers and other scholars, including some, like Marta Tienda of Princeton, who write favorably about the impacts of immigration and others who are skeptical of its benefits, like George J. Borjas, a Harvard economist. Here’s what the report says:

“We found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term,” said Francine D. Blau, an economics professor at Cornell University who led the group that produced the 550-page report.

An article posted on Politico included similar opinions:

“Economists overwhelmingly think that immigration is good for the economy. That’s not just true at the high-skilled, but low-skilled level,” said Jeremy Robbins, the executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, the pro-reform group led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Robbins, who regularly meets with GOP lawmakers, added: “There is overwhelming support in Congress for the idea of immigration as an economic driver, including in the Republican conference.”

Trump’s elevation of immigration to the forefront of his agenda probably represents a bid to pull public attention away from the recent GOP defeat on health care. This latest immigration bill’s chances are slim in the Senate, given that it would require 60 GOP votes to thwart a Democratic filibuster. Trump has hammered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter, insisting that McConnell abolish the filibuster to better enable the GOP to pass its legislative agenda.

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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