The RAISE Act Would Dramatically Change U.S. Immigration Law


A few weeks ago, President Trump endorsed immigration reform in the name of the RAISE Act , S. 1720, which was introduced in the Senate by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA).

The RAISE Act would drastically reshape American immigration. In so doing, the RAISE Act will likely increase, not decrease, pressures for undocumented immigration.

Approximately a 1 million immigrants are granted lawful permanent residence annually. Visas allocated based on family members in the United States comprise about two-thirds of the annual total. Department of Homeland Security, 2015 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics The top five countries of birth for new LPRs in 2015 were Mexico, China, India, the Philippines, and Cuba. See Migration Information Source, Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States (Mar. 8, 2017),

Currently, U.S. citizens can sponsor spouses, minor children, and parents without numerical limitations. Under capped categories, U.S. citizens can also sponsor adult children and siblings; and legal permanent residents (LPRs) can sponsor spouses, minor children, and adult unmarried children.

The RAISE Act would cut the annual immigrant admissions by one-half. The bill would eliminate all family sponsorship beyond spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and LPRs, and would reduce various family categories from 226,000 green cards to 88,000. The cuts to family-based immigration would affect immigrants from a select few countries. For an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute .

The Senate bill also would change the system for employment-based lawful immigration. Under the current system, most employment based immigrants are reserved to the highly skilled. Besides dramatically reducing family-based immigration, the RAISE Act would replace the current selection scheme with a points system in which applicants would earn points based on:

·1. A relatively high-paying job offer, with more points for a higher salary

·2. High English test scores

·3. Age, with those closest to age 25 earning the most points

·4. Educational attainment, with more points for degrees earned in the United States, and for advanced degrees in a STEM field

·5. Investing at least $1.35 million in the United States

6. Extraordinary achievement, such as winning a Nobel Prize or being an Olympic-caliber athlete

The bill also seeks to eliminate the Diversity Visa program and further caps refugee admissions, cutting back lawful immigration by 100,000 a year.

In total, the RAISE Act would lead to an overall reduction of legal immigration by 50 percent over the next decade. That would exacerbate the current problem of undocumented immigration. Because of unrealistic restrictions on legal immigration in the current laws, the United States has roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. See Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn , Pew Research Center, As Mexican Share Declined, U.S. Unauthorized Immigrant Population Fell in 2015 Below Recession Level (April 2017). Reducing legal immigration as the RAISE Act does will likely increase the demand and increase pressures for undocumented immigration. This is especially the case because the merit-based system will not address the high demand in the United States for low- and medium-skilled workers, which many undocumented immigrants perform today in the agricultural, construction, and service industries.


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About The Author

Kevin Johnson Kevin Johnson is Dean, Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law, and Professor of Chicana/o Studies. He joined the UC Davis law faculty in 1989 and was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 1998. Johnson became Dean in 2008. He has taught a wide array of classes, including immigration law, civil procedure, complex litigation, Latinos and Latinas and the law, and Critical Race Theory. In 1993, he was the recipient of the law school's Distinguished Teaching Award.Dean Johnson has published extensively on immigration law and civil rights. Published in 1999, his book How Did You Get to Be Mexican? A White/Brown Man's Search for Identity was nominated for the 2000 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Dean Johnson’s latest book, Immigration Law and the US-Mexico Border (2011), received the Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards – Best Reference Book. Dean Johnson blogs at ImmigrationProf, and is a regular contributor on immigration on SCOTUSblog. A regular participant in national and international conferences, Dean Johnson has also held leadership positions in the Association of American Law Schools and is the recipient of an array of honors and awards. He is quoted regularly by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other national and international news outlets.

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