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The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act: A new beginning or a waste of time?

By Michael Cataliotti

Since Mr. Trump unveiled the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Ecomomy (RAISE) Act,[1] as revised and sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue of Arkansas and Georgia, respectively, it has garnered a decent amount of coverage, a significant portion of which seems to indicate that the bill will not pass the Senate due in large part to its draconian provisions. This was expected, remains unsurprising, and presents more of an attempt to cater to certain portions of the American electorate than produce something valuable for the country as a whole.

Fundamentally, it is important to note that the RAISE Act, as amended, concerns green cards only. None of the provisions relate to the non-immigrant visa categories. Therefore, many of our artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and athletes who seek to enter the U.S. for limited durations would not be affected by it. However, should any of those individuals want to obtain a green card, then she or he, particularly artists, entertainers, and athletes, would likely feel a burning sensation from the RAISE Act. Accordingly, some of the important aspects of the RAISE Act are that it seeks to:

1) Reduce the number of green cards issued from one million to 500,000;

2) remove the ability for siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green-card holders), to seek permanent residency;

3) remove parents from the definition of an "immediate relative" who may seek permanent residency;[2]

4) decrease the age of an immediate relative child from 21 to 18 years;

5) impose a cap on the number of visas issued to refugees per year to 50,000;

6) terminate the diversity-visa lottery; and

7) terminate all employment-based categories and replace them with a "points-based system" (with a special section that replaces the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program).

The "points-based system" favors those individuals who are: (i) between 26 and 30 years of age, (ii) fluent in English, (iii) well-educated at the Master's level or higher from a U.S. institution, (iv) specialize in the STEM industries [3], and (v) compensated by a salary that is three-times the median household income of the state in which she or he is going to be employed. Any potential applicant must be at least 18 years old and able to demonstrate that she or he can achieve at least 30 points (out of a maximum of 100) [4].

While this is obviously not ideal for our athletes, artists or entertainers, it is worth noting that anyone who has earned an "individual Olympic medal or placed first in an international sporting event in which the majority of the best athletes in an Olympic sport were represented" would earn 15 points under the proposed system, so there's always that. [5]


[1] https://www.cotton.senate.gov/files/documents/170802_New_RAISE_Act_Bill_Text.pdf; https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/research/the_raise_act_what_lies_beneath_the_proposed_points_system.pdf.

[2] While this falls in line with the preceding sentence, it is separated here, because it goes to the heart of one fundamental point raised by many people opposed to immigration: the ability of an American child to sponsor her or his parents for permanent residency (so-called "anchor babies", as vile as the term may be).

[3] "STEM" industries means the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics industries.

[4] Thanks to the folks at TIME Magazine, we can all see easily where we would fall on the scale.

[5] https://www.cotton.senate.gov/files/documents/170802_New_RAISE_Act_Bill_Text.pdf, page 32, section 220(f)(2). In addition, it is worth noting that "Extraordinary Ability" includes "25 points if the applicant is a Nobel Laureate or has received comparable recognition in a field of scientific or social scientific study, as determined by the Commissioner of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services".

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