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RAISE Act and Trump’s Immigration Approach Face Fierce Backlash From Leading Observers

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More observers are blasting the Trump approach to immigration and the RAISE Act, introduced last week by Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA).  The Trump-backed bill would slash legal immigration by more than 50% by eliminating multiple family immigration categories (parents, siblings, adult children), eliminating diversity visas and reducing the admission of refugees.

Said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

As numerous experts have pointed out, there is no actual economic argument in favor of the RAISE Act.  This isn’t about making America great again, it’s about making America white again. Donald Trump—first during his campaign, and now during his presidency—wants Americans to fear people from other countries.  He turns to this fear-mongering and scapegoating every time he’s in the hot seat on other issues, hoping to change the subject and rev up his base.  This is identity politics at its worst.  And from both a policy and political perspective, decidedly un-American.

Last week, we published 5 key takeaways from the RAISE Act rollout. Today, we excerpt a handful of editorials and columns making the economic arguments against this legislation from the New York TimesWall Street Journal, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, Akron Beacon Journal, and the Cato Institute.

Trump Embraces a Senseless Immigration Proposal,” New York Times Editorial Board:

[A]s studies have repeatedly shown, immigration boosts productivity and economic growth; restricting it would have the opposite effect. Growth is determined by the changes in productivity — how much each worker produces — and the size of the work force. Productivity in recent decades has been growing more slowly than in the past for reasons that economists do not fully understand. The labor force is also growing slowly as baby boomers retire. Restricting immigration would reinforce both trends.

How to Increase Illegal Immigration,” Wall Street Journal Editorial Board:

While the legislation is supposedly modeled on immigration systems in Canada and Australia, both countries are far more welcoming of foreigners. Australia admits three times as many immigrants per year than the U.S. as a share of population. Canada accepts more than twice as many, and concierges help fast-track the process for high-skilled workers.

As for the argument that “low-skilled” immigrants are displacing U.S. workers, what economy are they living in? The U.S. jobless rate in July fell again to 4.3%, and employers in a myriad of industries including construction, agriculture and hospitality are facing a severe labor shortage.


The larger irony is that by restricting legal immigration Mr. Trump would increase the incentive for more foreigners to cross the border illegally or overstay their visas. The solution, as ever, is a legal immigration system that is generous with visas and flexible enough to meet the demands of a growing U.S. economy. If the White House is serious about passing something in Congress, it needs to recognize that reality.

Trump and immigration exclusionists undermine economic goals” by Jennifer Rubin for the Washington Post:

The Cotton-Perdue bill, we were gladdened to see, provoked a furious backlash not just from pro-immigration groups and liberals but from conservatives and economic growth advocates. The free-market critics, unlike Trump, comprehend that the Cotton-Perdue play to the xenophobic sentiments that lifted Trump to the presidency, if put into actual policy, would doom the goal of 3 percent growth. Put simply, you cannot slash immigration and Make America Great Again.


Interestingly, Americans, despite all the anti-immigration propaganda, understand that the United States needs immigrants. While not framed purely in economic terms, polling consistently shows the public understands immigrants are good for the country. ThePew Research Center recently found:

For a large majority of Americans, the country’s openness to people from around the world “is essential to who we are as a nation.” In a new Pew Research Center survey, 68% say America’s openness to foreigners is a defining characteristic of the nation, while just 29% say “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”


In sum, the United States has been great, prosperous and dynamic in large part because it has been open to those who want a better life for themselves and their families. That’s not merely a historical fact, it is a current reality, as we saw from a recent study that “immigrants started more than half of the current crop of U.S.-based startups valued at $1 billion or more.” We cannot be closed and prosperous, let alone great, by clinging to the anti-immigrant hysteria whipped up by manipulative politicians.”

They don’t take our jobs,” Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board:

[E]conomists note that most of the European immigrants to this country during the previous century were low-skilled, and they helped deliver unprecedented prosperity.

Akron and other cities across the aging industrial belt have benefited from an influx of refugees and immigrants. Newly arrived Latinos famously revitalized a sagging Chicago.

The president wants a legal immigration system driven more by merit. Points would be awarded based on such things as an ability to speak English, age and record of achievement. Australia and Canada are the models. The country is well served by such talent. Yet the plan isn’t to increase the number of merit-based green cards above the current 140,000 a year.

The reduction would come in those admitted as family members of current residents. What shouldn’t be missed is that since 2000, one-third of those family members entering the country have college degrees. Immigrants typically are more educated than Americans. They reflect just what the president claims to seek.

Ignorant Immigration Reform,” by David Bier of the Cato Institute in the New York Times:

They have justified this drastic cut in immigration by stating that the bill will, as they put it in February when announcing an earlier version, bring “legal immigration levels” back down to “their historical norms.” But the senators fail to consider the impact of population growth. A million immigrants to the United States in 2017 isn’t equivalent to the same number in 1900, when there were a quarter as many Americans.

Controlling for population, today’s immigration rate is nearly 30 percent below its historical average. If their bill becomes law, the rate would fall to about 60 percent below average. With few exceptions, the only years with such a low immigration rate were during the world wars and the Great Depression. Surely, these are not the “norms” to which the senators seek to return.


A related fiction is that the bill would “prioritize” skilled immigrants. In fact, it contains no more visas for skilled workers than our current law does. All the bill would do is cut the number of visas for the family members of United States citizens. Canada and Australia prioritize skilled workers by allowing far more of them to come — while also accepting more family members than we do.