What Trump’s merit based system might look like

The White House yesterday (5/16/19)  announced new immigration legislation without disclosing the text of an actual bill. But we can make an informed guess of its content by looking at the RAISE Act, which was proposed by Senators Cotton and Perdue in mid 2017. If enacted, the bill would turn immigration policy into an extremely selective and narrow funnel into which only the most educated and economically productive would be admitted. If unauthorized persons are not converted to legal status but are driven out of the country through legal enforcement, whole industries that rely on workers with low formal education would be challenged to survive.

The RAISE act would reduce levels of legal immigration to the United States by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued. The bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year and would end the visa diversity lottery. Legal immigration would be severely cut by reducing family based immigrations.

The Act would revise the awarding of 140,000 green cards for economic reasons to a merit-based system. The number of economic-based green cards would not increase. Entry through the points systems would surely be incredibly competitive, with only the most highly educated, most English fluent, highest-paid STEM workers making the cut.

It would essentially bar green cards for artists and low formally educated immigrants. Some 27 million foreign-born people work in America, about 17% of the workforce. Among major occupations with no need (1) for a high school degree and (2) much contact with the public, immigrants fill about 40% of these jobs. They include jobs on farms, construction sites, warehouses, in kitchens, and for building cleaning and maintenance. Roughly half of the immigrant workers in these jobs are undocumented.

An analysis of the RAISE Act by the Migration Policy Institute is here.

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