Why Trump's RAISE Act Won't Actually Help Americans At All

by Katherine Speller
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On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump backed legislation that would overhaul immigration in the United States through a screening process that favors people who speak English or can support themselves financially. However, experts have weighed in that the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment ACT, otherwise known as the RAISE Act, won't actually help Americans at all.

As the Washington Post reported, the bill could ultimately lead to a 50 percent reduction of legal immigration in the United States, bringing the number of new green card holders each year from 1 million to 500,000. However, as the Cato Institute's Alex Nowrasteh noted in his analysis of the bill in February, the loss of those legal immigrants isn't the answer to the problem of "low-skilled" workers in the United States. In fact, he took issue with the claim that the bill would supposedly create a "skills-based immigration system" or increase American wages.

Similar conclusions — that the effects of immigration on "native-born" workers is "very small" —were drawn via the The National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) study of immigration's economic impact:

When measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small. To the extent that negative impacts occur, they are most likely to be found for prior immigrants or native-born workers who have not completed high school—who are often the closest substitutes for immigrant workers with low skills.

As Nowrasteh pointed out, the RAISE act is employing an older tactic to attempt to raise wages of native-born American workers. Though Congress has restricted immigration to raise wages before in 1882, 1924, and 1964, he points out that each attempt failed.

As Director of Immigration and Cross-Border Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Theresa Cardinal Brown said in a statement on Wednesday that immigration in the United States is actually “a national imperative for the United States, fueling economic growth and supporting our nation’s retirees."

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Turning her attention toward the RAISE act, she said:

The RAISE Act’s goal of reducing legal immigration is a threat to the U.S. economy and would place additional strains on the Social Security system by reducing the size of the labor force.

Touching on the org's upcoming report on Immigration: America’s Demographic Edge, Cardinal also said that legal immigration was essential to dealing with a U.S. population that is "aging rapidly."

According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the population aged 65 and above will more than double by 2060, posing significant risks to Social Security, which relies on current workers to support the growing ranks of retirees. A growing labor force—aided by immigration—not only helps to shore up Social Security’s finances, but it also results in greater demand for goods and services, contributes to economic growth through innovation and entrepreneurship, creates jobs and improves the long-term U.S. economic outlook.

The bill has been slammed by a folks on Twitter, the Anne Frank Center, and immigration reform advocates for its "dog-whistle" tactics and potential to stoke the flames of xenophobia. But, even putting those very real concerns aside, experts aren't really sold on the benefits of the RAISE Act.