Image: White House
This week, Trump announced his support for a “merit-based” immigration system. The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or the RAISE Act, targets legal immigration by limiting entry to the United States.
The RAISE Act aims to reduce the number of green cards distributed every year. The Act will also end the Visa Lottery, restrict the number of refugee admissions, limit family-sponsored migration, and add a category of nonimmigrant visa for parents of adult U.S. citizens.
The legislation was introduced back in February by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Georgia Senator David Perdue. At the White House on Wednesday, Trump referred to these proposals as “green card reforms” that will reduce “unskilled immigration.” Cotton said the Act will shift the green card system in favor of applicants who are young, can speak English, and excel in their field.
This “merit-based” system would prioritize immigrants who accumulate the most points in those desirable categories. While the stated purpose of this proposed legislation is to allow only those who will contribute positively to the country, it is unclear what impact this change might bring.
Trump’s logic is that by selecting the best and brightest of immigrants, the American economy will be better off. But economics is not that simple. In fact, this country has benefited from both high-skill and low-skill workers. Also, a simple benefit-cost calculation does not even consider the thousands of individuals who come to the U.S., a country where human rights are supposedly honored and respected.
Some U.S. citizens claim that they struggle to find jobs, but immigrants help create opportunities, provide labor, and fuel businesses. That is because the economy needs both suppliers and consumers. People specialize in what they do best and depend on each other.
This 2017 report published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded: “immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.” If anything, the United States should invest in education, including job training and career guidance.