The Trump-supported RAISE Act would cut legal immigration to the United States by half. The legislation moves immigration to a merit-based system of entry while significantly reducing available family-based green cards.
The plan is in line with the President Donald Trump’s efforts to limit the flow of newcomers to the country. Since being elected, Trump has temporarily banned visitors from certain Muslim-majority countries, limited refugee admissions, and promised to build a wall along the Mexican border.
The bill’s sponsors promise the plan will strengthen the economy, raise working wages and create jobs. Economists, however, broadly agree that immigration boosts the economy. The economy, they say, depends on expanding the workforce, not shrinking it, as the RAISE Act would do.
How will the RAISE Act change immigration?
The RAISE Act will change who is awarded U.S. green cards—permanent resident status—in five major ways.
1. Cuts Overall Immigration by Half
The proposal would reduce current immigration (over 1 million people per year) by 41 percent in its first year and 50 percent by its 10th year.
2. Cuts to Family-Based Green Cards
Currently, 64 percent of green cards issued are family-based. Forty-four percent are for spouses and minor children of U.S. residents and 20 percent are for “family-sponsored preferences.” This category includes parents and siblings; the RAISE Act would eliminate these categories.
It also creates a renewable temporary visa for the elderly parents of U.S. residents to come to the United States for the purposes of caretaking.
3. Eliminates the Diversity Visa “Green Card Lottery” Program
The Diversity Visa program will be eliminated. This program allots 50,000 visas lottery-style to applicants from countries who have historically low rates of immigration to the United States. To qualify, selected applicants must have completed at least a high school education or at least two years of work experience in an occupation which requires at least two years of training or experience.
4. Limits Green Cards for Refugees
From 2013-2015 the average number of green cards issued to refugees was 135,000. The RAISE Act plans to limit the refugee green cards to 50,000 per year, regardless of the global climate.
5. Replaces the Employment-Based System with a Merit-Based System
The plan will replace the current employment-based immigration system with an immigration points system similar to what is used in Australia and Canada. Points will be awarded based on education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. Up to 140,000 employment based visas will be issued annually to the highest scoring applicants.