The RAISE Act: The Opposite of Strengthening the US Economy

If we could give points for the most mean-spirited, misleading, and most unAmerican bill ever introduced, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act or “RAISE” Act would win hands down. 

The draconian bill the Trump Administration announced yesterday has been touted as strengthening the economy. In reality, it will do anything but that. Rather it strips away at the core value we as Americans cherish.

In addition to eliminating the Diversity visa program, here are some of the highlights of what the RAISE Act would do:

1.    If you are a US citizen, your parents will no longer be recognized as your ‘immediate relative’ and therefore you cannot sponsor them for green cards. Instead, you will have to sponsor them for non-immigrant visas, that will be valid up to 5 years. But parents will have to prove that they can support themselves and you as the citizen son or daughter will have to ensure they have medical insurance in advance.  How does this strengthen the US economy?

2.    The age of a child that you can include as a dependent will be reduced to 18 from 21! What? There was a reason Obamacare included children up to the age of 26 to be covered under their parents’ medical insurance. How does this strengthen the US economy?

3.    Refugee numbers will be capped at 50,000 per annum. If you listen to my radio show, don’t miss this week’s show Tahmina Talks Immigration with Nicky Smith, Executive Director of International Rescue Committee in Seattle.  You can watch the Facebook Live video here. Nicky discusses how the world is scattered with the most displaced people in history and the US is already a country that takes the least number of refugees.  She also talks about studies which show that every $1 spent on refugees generates $3 back to the economy.  How does this strengthen the US economy?

4.    Asylum numbers will be determined by the president himself based on the previous year’s asylum numbers. If you don’t know this, asylum applications take YEARS to adjudicate. Don’t forget people who are applying for asylum are doing it because their lives are in danger in their own countries.

5.    Total family-based green card numbers will be reduced from a base 226,000 (the numbers are generally complicated and the total numbers are usually more than 226,000) to 88,000.  But the 88,000 total will count people who were given permission to enter to the US (parole) but didn’t leave. 

6.    It will invalidate applications that were filed and are pending from the date this bill was introduced (August 3 2017!). What? Normally you would have to wait for a bill to become law to make that assertion. Usually, pending cases are grandfathered into a new program when a new law is enacted. Not invalidated. 

7.    And to the most touted spectacle of this bill- the merits points:

a.    Total green cards will remain at 140,000.

b.    Children and spouses will count in the above number.

c.     Points will be given for education, English proficiency, salary, Nobel Prize and such high achievements, first place medals at Olympics or such international sporting events  and lastly financial investment. Note that experience counts for nothing.

d.    The younger you are, the more points you get but forget it if you are at the peak of your career at 40- you get 2 points. And if you are a wise experienced 51 year old? No points. At least they let you apply…

e.    The application will be submitted electronically.  This is a joke- USCIS has been trying to implement an electronic system for years. It just doesn’t work. They recently introduced the electronic submission of one form (I-90) in the past week. We’ll see how that goes. But to have green card applications filed on a broken system? Wishful thinking if you ask me.

f.      Eligibility for a points based green card will be limited to 12 months. Thereafter, you will need to apply afresh. It seems no one told the senators or the White House about the decades long backlog? Yes, strengthening the economy…

g.     Once you are invited to file your actual green card application after the online submission (you will be lucky if you wait less than 12 months!)- you will get 90 days to file. You will have to prove you have a job offer that will not be displacing a US worker (no guidance on how to prove displacement) and that you have health insurance- either through the employer or through a bond you post.

8.    And when it comes to citizenship- no citizenship for anyone who filed an I-864 to sponsor someone and owes the federal government money.

And there you have it. The grand plan to strengthening the economy. Not seeing where the ‘strengthening’ part of the bill exists here- do you?  It is clear that those who envisioned and drafted this bill, have no idea about immigration law.  The bill is introduced simply to create sound bites of fear mongering, inflict cruelty and cause anxiety about immigrants.

If the administration does in fact want to introduce immigration reform with a sincere intention to take action, I would suggest starting with the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill S.744 that passed in the Senate. It was a bipartisan bill.  The bill actually created a thoughtful and acceptable merit based program. For anyone interested in that merit based program, here is my handy-dandy chart on it.

If you are a reader who cares about strengthening the US economy, then look at our neighbors to the north. I dare you not to be inspired by their actions. Canada is looking at immigrants as an economic stimulus and is visibly strengthening its economy through immigration.  We are not; and certainly not by this bill. Call your senators and urge them to shut this down.

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