RAISE the Literacy Bar for Green Cards
Among the most important reforms in the proposed overhaul of America’s green card program is a point system that rewards literacy in English.The RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy) states: “An applicant may accrue points for English language proficiency. Applicants with equal points and equal educational attainment shall be ranked according to their respective English language proficiency test rankings.”The provision counters kneejerk claims that RAISE – designed to upgrade the productive capacity of green-card holders – discriminates against certain groups of immigrants. In fact, the English proficiency points are predicated on common sense and promote the mutual good: The better you understand the language, the higher your chances of obtaining permanent legal residency, and the more likely you are to succeed in this country.It’s a premise that Americans of all political stripes can embrace. The Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank, recently reported that working-age adults with limited English proficiency earn 25 to 40 percent less than their English-proficient counterparts.Large, ongoing inflows of non-proficient English speakers strain local schools and add to the cost of government services via multilingual forms, translators, etc. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hasn’t helped by exempting some older arrivals from demonstrating any English aptitude at all.The wage gap between English and non-English speakers clearly shows that English remains our coin of the realm. The RAISE Act recognizes that reality and incentivizes green-card seekers to learn the language before applying.Broadly speaking, a common language is essential to social cohesion, civic progress and, of course, basic communication. Green-card applicants who read, write and fluently converse in English can strengthen America. Expecting less devalues the entire process.
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