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What is the RAISE Act?

What is the RAISE Act?
The RAISE Act, a proposed law that would completely overhaul our legal immigration framework has been was introduced in the Senate. It has the support of the President, although indications are that it has limited support in Congress. Nevertheless, many people are curious about the proposal and the framing of the discussion around legal immigration in the United States.
Our Current Legal Immigration System
Currently just over 1 million people are able to legally immigrate to the United States every year. About 65% immigrate through family-based petitions. Family-based petitions include spouses, children, parents and siblings of US citizens as well as spouses and children of green-card holders (permanent residents). Employment-based immigration makes up about 15% of green cards issued every year. In the majority of cases, an employer sponsors a particular immigrant who fills a job the employer has not been able to fill with a US worker. In general, “unskilled labor” such as agricultural work cannot be the basis for an employment-based petition.
The remaining 20% of people who are able to immigrate legally to the US each year are made up of diversity visa lottery winners and humanitarian-based immigrants. The diversity visa lottery allows 50,000 randomly-selected people to immigrate from countries with low levels of immigration to the US Humanitarian programs include refugees, abused, abandoned or neglected children, victims of certain crimes and survivors of human trafficking.
What the RAISE Act Would Change
First, the RAISE Act would reduce legal immigration to the United States by more than half. Second, it drastically reduces both family-based and humanitarian immigration as compared to employment-based immigration. Third, it significantly changes employment-based immigration from employer-focused to “merit” focused.
The overall number of people able to immigrate to the United States each year would decrease down to about 500,000. It cuts off family-based petitions for parents, siblings and adult children of US citizens, as well as adult children of green card holders. This means only spouses and minor children would be eligible to immigrate. The RAISE Act also does away with the diversity visa program and caps refugees at 50,000 per year, significantly less than the 84,995 who entered in 2016. Under the RAISE Act, intending immigrants would not be required to have a job offer, but rather would receive points based on age, education, English-language skills and specific achievements.
The RAISE Act represents a significant change in what our country values in intending immigrants. The RAISE Act reduces the value placed on extended families, humanitarian protections, people skilled in the arts or humanities, and the needs of US employers. It increases the value given to high levels of education, STEM fields, younger people, English-speakers and high-earners. Under the RAISE Act, we would have fewer immigrants, they would be younger, more likely to be male, and less likely to work in what are currently immigrant-heavy sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, and hospitality. To see how this works in real life, you can see if you would be allowed to apply to immigrate under the proposed points system:

Analysis by: MariRuth Penzing, Attorney

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