Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. David Perdue have introduced a bill that would cut legal immigration to the U.S. in half. The legislation is called the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act. Its goal is to restore historical levels of immigration in order to give working Americans a fair shot at wealth creation.
The current system fails to do this. Rather, as Sen. Cotton argues, by accepting an average of one million immigrants annually, the vast majority of whom are either low-skilled or unskilled, we create intense downward pressure on the wages of working Americans. (Ironically, the wages of recent immigrants are the hardest hit).
According to the Senator, 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 I believe it has been a significant contributor.
This collapse in wages threatens to create a near permanent underclass for whom the American Dream is always out of reach.
The RAISE Act would help raise American workers’ wages by reducing overall immigration by half and rebalancing the system toward nuclear family household reunification. Thus, it would retain immigration preferences for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent legal residents. But it would eliminate preferences for the following:
• Adult parents of U.S. citizens
• Adult siblings of U.S. citizens
• Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens
• Married adult children of U.S. citizens
• Unmarried adult children of legal permanent residents.
To me, this makes perfect sense. I see no reason for preferring such immigrants other than, perhaps, in cases where elderly parents need to be cared for in the United States. In these cases, the legislation creates a renewable temporary visa on the condition that the parents are not permitted to work, cannot access public benefits, and must be guaranteed support and health insurance by their sponsoring children.
The Cotton-Perdue legislation would also eliminate the “Diversity Lottery” which awards 50,000 visas a year. This is another good idea. The Diversity Lottery is outdated. As Sen. Cotton says, it is plagued with fraud, advances no economic or humanitarian interest, and does not even deliver the diversity its name promises.
Finally, the RAISE Act would limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year. This is in line with a 13-year average.
In my view, the RAISE Act is sensible legislation that is well-tailored to give American workers a better shot at economic advancement.
Critics on the left will tell us, as they constantly do, that we are a nation of immigrants. We are, but the RAISE Act won’t change us.
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 immigrant, but one in which the wages of Americans, including recent immigrants, aren’t so severely squeezed.
Critics on the right may argue that rather than restoring historical immigration levels, we should stop taking new immigrants. I consider this too draconian; nor does it seem necessary to address the problem of wage squeeze.
I trust that the Trump administration will back the RAISE Act and that it will have substantial Republican support in the House and Senate. In the latter body, the Democrats have enough of a presence to block the bill. But Senate Democrats who join in such obstruction will have to explain to their constituents why they moved to put the interests of foreigners ahead of the interest of working Americans at the lower end of the economic spectrum.