What Does the "RAISE" Act Mean For Immigration In the U.S.?

Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 4:00pm

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator David Perdue (R-Georgia) introduced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act into the Senate with the goal of spurring economic growth and raising U.S. workers’ wages by creating a skills-based immigration system.  This skills-based system was described by Senator Perdue as one that would be “more responsive to the needs of our U.S. economy and preserves the quality of jobs available to American workers.”

What does the RAISE Act propose?

  • Establishing a Skills-Based Points System: Such a system would replace the current employment-based permanent resident (green card) system with a skills-based system, somewhat like the systems in Canada and Australia, that would prioritize immigrants who would succeed in the United States and expand the economy.
  • Eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery (“Green Card Lottery”):  The RAISE Act would eliminate the 50,000 Diversity Visa permanent resident program which has provided permanent resident status to individuals from various parts of the world that are not typically represented via the “regular” permanent resident process in order to bring diversity to the immigrant population in the U.S.
  • Limits the Number of Refugees that may obtain Permanent Resident Status: The RAISE Act would limit the number of refugees offered permanent resident status to 50,000 per year.
  • Limits Permanent Resident Options Available to Immediate Family Members:  Permanent resident preferences would be retained for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents and would eliminate the categories for extended and adult family members.

The RAISE Act calls for drastic cuts to the family-based permanent resident programs while creating a point system based on criteria such as English language ability, education levels, and job skills in order to rank applicants for the 140,000 employment-based green cards” per fiscal year.  The RAISE Act would not increase the number of  “green cards” available based on employment sponsorship which very likely could make it more difficult for employers to hire much needed workers.  In the end, the RAISE Act would increase the proportion of employment-based green cards while significantly cutting other green cards through the family-based and Diversity Lottery programs.

Will this RAISE Act make it through Congress?

The prospects for this bill are not very good in the Senate.  Specifically, the Republicans hold a marrow majority and would have a tough time obtaining the 60 votes necessary to prevent a filibuster.  It is anticipated that the Congressional Democrats, along with immigrant rights’ groups, business leaders, and some moderate Republicans will put up a tough and united opposition to the bill.

We will provide updates on the RAISE Act as it moves through (or doesn’t move through) Congress.