President Trump officially endorsed legislation—the so-called RAISE Act—that will cut legal immigration to the U.S. by half and overhaul the current immigration system by focusing on immigrants who would contribute the most to the U.S. economy.
Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia initially introduced the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act, in February. The far-reaching effects of some of the key provisions of the RAISE Act were outlined in a previous blog post.
Immigration Cuts and Reforms
Expanded since its February introduction, the RAISE Act would:
- Cut by 50% the one million or so green cards issued annually. Limit family-sponsored immigration to spouses, minor children, and elderly parents, eliminating all other family-based preferences.
- Create a renewable temporary visa for the elderly parents of U.S. residents to enable them to come to the U.S. for caretaking purposes.
- Establish a merit-based points system for issuing employment-based green cards.
- Eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which awards up to 50,000 immigrant visas annually. Administered by the U.S. Department of State, the program randomly selects eligible visa applicants who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
- Limit the number of refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year. The U.S. granted more than 118,000 refugees permanent residency in 2015, according to Homeland Security.
Merit-Based Points System
The RAISE Act creates a merit-based points system for determining who receives one of the 140,000 employment-based green cards the U.S. issues annually. The system awards points based on criteria designed to ensure that immigrants productively contribute to the U.S. economy.
By doing so, Trump says, the RAISE Act “prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare, and protects U.S. workers from being displaced.” (However, legal immigrants have been barred since 1996 from receiving government benefits for five years or longer. Some exceptions exist. For instance, children and human trafficking victims are eligible to collect certain benefits.)
Under the RAISE Act, employment-based green card candidates would earn points based on:
- English-language ability as demonstrated by a high score on an English language proficiency test.
- Education level with preference given to advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
- A high-paying job offer with the most points given to those with an annual salary at least 300% of the median household income in the state of employment.
- Age with the most points given to those between the ages of 26 to 30.
- Record of “extraordinary achievement,” such as receiving a Nobel Prize or other awards or recognition.
- “Entrepreneurial initiative” as measured by willingness to invest personal funds in a new enterprise in the U.S., play an active role in managing the enterprise and maintain the enterprise for at least three years. Those who invest $1.8 million or more would receive preference.
The highest scoring applicants would receive the 140,000 employment-based green cards the U.S. issues annually.
The RAISE Act needs at least 60 votes in the Senate to pass. Political pundits maintain the measure faces an uphill battle. It needs the support of at least eight Senate Democrats in addition to every one of the 52 Republicans.
This legislation will likely face opposition from moderate Republicans in immigrant-heavy states. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has already come out against the bill.
We Can Help
The RAISE Act may fail to come to fruition. Still, we encourage you to devise an immigration strategy before lawmakers and the Trump administration further curtail immigration options. Alcorn Immigration Law supports immigration for innovation by obtaining visas, green cards, and citizenship for highly-motivated investors, founders, talent, and families. Contact us for a consultation.