On Wednesday, six months into his tenure as President, Trump made good on a long-held campaign promise to dramatically slash the number of immigrants given permanent green cards and favor the highly educated, skilled, and English-speaking over other applicants. The RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) was initially proposed by two Republican senators earlier this year. The version of the bill Trump is now pushing has minor changes, but is still unlikely to pass.
At its core, the act seeks to achieve two goals: Firstly to limit the number of individuals given green cards, aka permanent residency status in the United States. Secondly, if passed, green card applicants would be judged on their skill set, education level, and other so-called "meritocratic" values. The RAISE Act would also eliminate the green card lottery, which at present puts valid green card applicants through a lottery process to determine who is given permanent residency status.
Tom Cotton — one of the two GOP senators who initially introduced the bill — noted that the current system seems to immigration activists as a "symbol of America virtue and generosity." However, to Cotton and other proponents of the RAISE Act, it instead seems to be "a symbol we’re not committed to working-class Americans and we need to change that."
Here are a few crucial things to keep in mind about the act.
It Would Radically Overhaul America's Immigration System
America's immigration system, while deeply flawed at present, is at least theoretically based on the tenet that, if one is deeply committed to becoming an American citizen and working hard on behalf of the country, they should at least have a route available to living and working in the States. Given America's history, this core policy reflects America's own identity.
Trump's immigration plan would kill that theme. His plan, by contrast, is based on the idea that America only needs more immigrants that the country can use, e.g. immigrants whose skills will fortify the United States in ways that the country could utilize most.
The Anne Frank Center Is Terrified About It
The Anne Frank Center has long wrestled with Trump's policies and statements, like Trump's hamfisted attempt to condemn anti-Semitic attacks. Its statement in regard to this immigration act, however, goes further, and directly compares Trump's treatment of immigrants and refugees to despots' treatment of minorities.
"This heinous action would, in effect, establish an ethnic purity test that harkens [sic] to the darkest chapters of world history," the center wrote in a statement. "The Statue of Liberty weeps."
Many Refugees Wouldn't Be Able To Enter America
Obama had sought to broaden the number of refugees welcomed into the United States, determining that 110,000 refugees could be reasonably allowed entry and permanent residency.
Trump's plan would drastically cut that — to 50,000 per year.
The Green Card Lottery Would Be Out
Like the lottery applied to H-1B work visas, the green card lottery is designed to be just that — a random lottery. The idea is that all valid applications that fall under certain restrictions are considered equally, and the "winners" picked at random. This is intended to optimize fairness.
Many of these green card lottery applicants, and therefore "winners," are from developing countries that don't typically see a lot of immigration to the United States. To kill the lottery, therefore, could minimize the number of both applicants and successful applications from countries that would benefit from closer immigration ties to America.
The Bill Is Unlikely To Pass
Even some centrist Republicans are likely to oppose the measure, particularly those whose districts are well-represented by immigrants of different skill sets and ethnic backgrounds. Like the health care act before it, if Republicans as a whole cannot agree on a bill, they do not have the clear majority needed to pass a bill into law.