In February, I wrote about the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act. This legislation, proposed by Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, would cut legal immigration to the U.S. in half and prioritize high-skilled immigrants, while ending family preferences for all but the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent legal residents.
Today, President Trump, with the two sponsoring Senators by his side, publicly backed the RAISE Act. Subsequently, at a press briefing, CNN’s Jim Acosta invoked the words on the Statue of Liberty, as he tried to debate White House policy adviser Stephen Miller on the merits of the legislation. Putting it nicely, Scott observed that Acosta was in over his head (Steve was more graphic). The video Scott posted makes this painfully clear.
In my February post, I anticipated the line of attack used by Acosta today. I wrote: “Critics on the left will tell us, as they constantly do, that we are a nation of immigrants.” I responded:
We became a nation of immigrants via immigration at our historical levels. By restoring immigration to about those levels, we would remain a nation of immigrants, but one in which the wages of Americans, including recent immigrants, aren’t so severely squeezed.
The point about wage squeeze is critical. It’s fine to continue on as a nation of immigrants, but shouldn’t we also want to protect the wages of recent immigrants and other Americans with low levels of educational attainment?
As Sen. Cotton has pointed out, wages for Americans with only a high school diploma have declined by two percent since the late 1970s. Wages for those who didn’t finish high school have declined by nearly 20 percent. Wage pressure due to immigration doesn’t explain all of this decrease, but unless the law of supply and demand has been repealed, such wage pressure explains a good deal of it.
The American Dream is at least as fundamental to our national identity as the “nation of immigrants” theme. The collapse of wages described above threatens to create a near permanent underclass for whom the American Dream is always out of reach.
The RAISE Act seeks to vindicate the American Dream while permitting historical levels of immigration. It does so by placing the priority on high-skilled immigrant — immigrants who won’t squeeze the wages of our low-skilled workers, but who instead will spur innovation, create jobs, and make America more competitive.
We can expect Senate Democrats to block the RAISE Act. But before they do so, Democrats should ask themselves how they expect to return to the good graces of the working class if they put the interests of foreigners ahead of the interest of working Americans at the lower end of the economic spectrum. How is this “A Better Deal”?