- - Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Last week, Congress reintroduced the RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy), the same legislation that Sens. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, and David Perdue, Georgia Republican, introduced in 2017. Freshman Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who defeated incumbent Claire McCaskill in the 2018 midterms, added his name to the lead sponsors on the new bill.

In the House, Republican Reps. Francis Rooney of Florida, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Paul Rosar of Arizona, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania introduced companion legislation. In 2017, at various times, President Trump formally endorsed the RAISE Act. In an August 2017 White House press release, the president said that “for decades, low-skilled and unskilled immigration into the United States has surged, depressing wages and harming America’s most vulnerable citizens.” The release further noted that of every 15 arriving immigrants, 14 are unskilled.

The current immigration practice is to grant more than 1 million permanent lifetime-valid work permits annually to foreign nationals. More than 90 percent of those immigrants are admitted without regard to their skills or whether their skill-set is needed in today’s economy or how their presence in the labor market would affect Americans with whom they would compete for employment. The RAISE Act would reduce this labor competition, which has been so harmful to American workers over the last four decades, by hundreds of thousands.

RAISE would:

• Establish a skills-based points system to replace the current employment-based visa method that puts little emphasis on education, English language ability and the skills necessary for success in today’s job market. Importantly, under the RAISE Act, Green Card applicants would earn points for the amount of salary offered by an employer, which would demonstrate that an immigrant truly has in-demand skills and would help prevent employers from using the immigration system to undercut the wages of existing domestic workers.

• Prioritize immediate family households by continuing to allow immigration preferences for spouses and minor children while eliminating categories of extended and adult family members.

• Create a temporary renewable non-immigrant visa for U.S. citizens whose parents need caretaking, but would not grant work permission or access to public benefits. The special visa would also require children to provide guaranteed support and health insurance for their parents.

• Eliminate the outdated and fraud-ridden diversity visa lottery that arbitrarily allocates 50,000 visas annually.

• Limit permanent refugee resettlement to 50,000 a year.

• Over a decade, legal immigration would be reduced by around 50 percent.

Both low- and high-skilled natives are affected by the influx of immigrants. But because a disproportionate percentage of immigrants have few skills, low-skilled American workers, including many blacks and Hispanics, have suffered the most from the wage dip that our current immigration system fosters.

The 2016 National Academy of Sciences (NAS} found that lower wages paid to immigrant workers eventually translates to about $54 billion in lost income for American workers. The NAS study also found that while legal and illegal immigration creates an economic advantage for some native-born Americans, the benefits come at the expense of lower wages paid to U.S. workers and to earlier waves of immigrants. Those lower wages translate into higher incomes for executives and larger profits for corporations, a significant wealth transfer.

Americans who would gain most from the RAISE Act are among the 16 million looking for a full-time job but can’t find one, and among the 43 million working-age Americans who are detached from the labor market.

Employed Americans — both legal permanent residents and native-born Americans — also stand to gain. Despite the properly applauded recent wage improvements that the March Bureau of Labor Statistics report reflected, inflation-adjusted wages in most occupations that don’t require a college degree are still below where they were 45 years ago.

Over the long haul, only the RAISE Act can protect struggling American workers from displacement and wage depression. If Congress cares about American workers, as it repeatedly insists it does, it will pass RAISE.

• Eric Ruark is director of research at NumbersUSA.

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