Early Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump revealed his support for new immigration legislation in the United States. Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia co-sponsored the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, which would cut legal immigration in half and favour skilled labourers and English speakers. The RAISE Act would also make all immigrants ineligible for welfare. The White House argues that this new legislation would help the American worker. President Trump said the RAISE act “ends chain migration and replaces our low-skill system with a points-based system for receiving a green card. This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.” During the press briefing, Senior White House Policy Aide, Stephen Miller, who temporarily replaced recently the White House Communications Director who was fired, Anthony Scaramucci, reiterated the president’s previous remarks and said this bill was meant to support the American worker.
However, many critics are rightfully skeptical of the intent of the RAISE act. Neither Trump, nor Miller, nor Cotton or Perdue have offered verifiable statistics that prove legal immigration is hurting the American worker. In fact, NPR found in a report that the RAISE Act would hurt many businesses. According to the report, this legislation is “opposed by business groups, which rely on low-skilled workers for agriculture and other jobs. And economists point to the low unemployment rate, 4.4 percent last month, as evidence that there are relatively few Americans who are without jobs now, and that, as Baby Boomers retire, there will be a labor shortage.” For instance, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called the bill a ‘non-starter.’ He went on to add that “The bottom line is to cut immigration by half a million people—legal immigration—doesn’t make much sense.”
Not only does the RAISE Act not make economic sense, it inherently goes against specific American values. During the White House Press Briefing, CNN news anchor Jim Acosta asked: “aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them they have to speak English?” Acosta also referenced the famous Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” on the Statue of Liberty. The poem reads “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” The RAISE Act would contradict the meaning of these lines and erase the United States’ image as a country that welcomes immigrants. Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center, said in a statement, “This heinous action would, in effect, establish an ethnic purity test that harkens to the darkest chapters of world history. The Statue of Liberty weeps as she watches President Trump all but flush America’s moral leadership down the toilet.” Similarly, Lizet Ocampo, the Political Director of People for the American Way, stated that “President Trump continues to demonstrate that he is willing to abandon our country’s values in order to push his own extreme agenda and score a few political points.”
The RAISE Act is not meant to support the American worker or help the United States, no matter what Trump says. Instead, the RAISE Act is an appeal to populist and nativist thinking that blames immigrants, specifically non-white immigrants, for every problem. Trump does not care about America’s future, rather he wants to appeal to his core supporters who voted him in based on xenophobic promises like a Muslim ban and a border wall.
As such, if the RAISE Act successfully passes, the United States can no longer claim to be a nation of immigrants, and the lines on the Statue of Liberty, which were once an American promise, will become meaningless.