On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced support for a modified bill that would cut legal immigration levels by half, marking a massive shift in the country's immigration laws. So what is the RAISE Act? Trump's newest immigration legislation is dangerous and inhumane.
The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act was first introduced by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia as a so-called "solution" for improving worker wages in the United States. According to the Washington Post, the legislation plans to restructure the country's green card program to favor applicants based on education levels, job skills, and English-language ability. It would also restrict who is allowed to receive a green card, giving preference only to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as eliminate the visa diversity lottery, the Post reported.
Immigration rights activists and political leaders have lambasted the legislation as another notch carved in the Trump administration's anti-immigration agenda. Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement,
[T]hey’re seeking to deny millions the American Dream by dramatically cutting legal immigration and limiting family reunification. Instead of catching criminals, Trump wants to tear apart communities and punish immigrant families that are making valuable contributions to our economy. That’s not what America stands for.
According to a fact sheet posted by Politico, Cotton and Perdue assert the RAISE Act would bolster wages and job opportunities for American workers by stymieing immigration into the states. This belief was parroted by Trump on Wednesday, who, CBS News reported, claimed the current U.S. immigration system "has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers."
But the bill wouldn't actually solve the United States' economic woes. The growth in immigration is not the reason for wage stagnation. Instead, it's company greed that keeps American workers from earning more.
As ThinkProgress reported in 2015, the country's economy has grown at a healthy rate since the 1970s, thanks in part to an increase in employee productivity. But American workers haven't seen their investment turn into higher wages; according to an Economic Policy Institute report, only 8 percent of productivity growth went back to employees since 2000. Who and what, then, was rewarded? Top executives and corporate profits. In other words: The people who earned the money aren't seeing the money.
Adjust wages for inflation, and you'll notice that today's paycheck has nearly the same buying power as it would 50 years ago. According to the Pew Research Center, the average hourly wage in 1964 was $2.50; in 2014, it was $20.67. But $2.50 an hour would have the same purchasing power as $19.18 in 2014 dollars. People in the upper income brackets, though, saw their wages rise significantly.
So what's driving this wage stagnation? Pew Research has some theories, none of which are related to immigration. In fact, a 2014 analysis by the Cato Institute shows that immigration has had very little to no effect on wages and employment for U.S.-born workers.
The argument, then, that cutting immigration would benefit American workers is disingenuous at best. Instead, it's a thin veil over an anti-immigrant bill that would rip apart families and strip them of economic and social opportunities in the United States.
As Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement,
Trump's plan to slash legal immigration is just another senseless attack on our country's values. Trump doesn't get that immigrants are good for America - good for our economy, our families and our communities, and this plan is just a mean-spirited fallback to vitriol and division. Americans will not be richer or safer if we stifle the labor force and drive families apart. This is not who we are as a nation, and we will continue to fight back against the Trump administration's self-defeating agenda.
If Trump and Republicans want to help American workers, then they should put more effort into holding accountable corporate executives who discriminate, steal wages, and abuse their employees for profit.