RAISE Act Would Cut Legal Immigration By 50%, Implement Merit-Based System
Legislative Update By: Liz Jacobs
Five months after rolling out historic legislation that would drastically cut overall legal immigration by ending the chain migration policy, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) unveiled a revised version of their bill that completely overhauls our immigration system to make it more merit-based. The original RAISE Act (S. 354), which stood for Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, ended chain migration and limited family-based green card eligibility to the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 14, 2017) This reform would drastically cut total legal immigration from 1.1 million new LPRs per year to approximately 550,000 per year within a decade. (Id.) While parents of U.S. citizens would no longer be eligible to receive green cards, the RAISE Act did create a new nonimmigrant visa for them so they can legally live in the country to receive care at the full expense of their citizen-children. (Id.) The original RAISE Act also ended the 55,000 annual visa lottery and capped annual refugee resettlement at 50,000—consistent with a 15 year average. (Id.)
The new version of the RAISE Act (S. 1720), now called the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy Act, keeps all of the provisions from the initial bill and also replaces our employment-based green card system with a points-based system. The new bill requires an applicant to earn at least 30 points to be eligible to apply for a green card and submit a $160 fee. (S. 1720 at §5(b)) A total of 140,000 merit-based green cards are distributed each year (consistent with current employment-based green card cap) and in the event of a tie, these categories in descending order determine who receives a green card: highest degree obtained, English proficiency score, and age (closest to age 25). Foreign nationals with at least 30 points who are not selected for a green card within a year of submitting the application must reapply if they still want to become an LPR. (Id.) If selected to become an LPR, the applicant must pay a fee of $345. (Id.) Applicants can earn points the following ways:
The RAISE Act point system according to a senate PowerPoint file made available by Sen. Cotton’s office.
In a press release, Sen. Cotton said, “For decades our immigration system has been completely divorced from the needs of our economy, and working Americans’ wages have suffered as a result. Our legislation will set things right.” (Cotton Press Release, Aug. 2, 2017) In the same release, Sen. Perdue continued, “Right now, our current immigration system does not meet the needs of our economy…. The RAISE Act will create a skills-based system that is more responsive to the needs of our economy and preserves the quality of jobs available to American workers.” (Id.) FAIR applauded the introduction of the revised RAISE Act, with FAIR’s president Dan Stein saying, “The RAISE Act finally thrusts our immigration system into the 21st Century, recognizing the need for a higher-skilled immigration flow while also acknowledging the importance of keeping nuclear families together in the process.” (FAIR Press Release, Aug. 2, 2017) “The RAISE Act helps realize President Trump’s vision of making America great again by making immigration great again as well.” (Id.)