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Immigration Lawyer in Houston: What is the RAISE Act?

As an immigration lawyer in Houston, I am often asked about changes to immigration law. If you keep up with immigration news, you might be wondering, what is the RAISE Act? The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act is a proposed reform of the U.S. Immigration System. Today, we look at its components, its questionable arguments, and the future of this proposed legislation.

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What is the RAISE Act?

The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act was introduced by two Republican senators, Tom Cotton and David Perdue. President Trump in the announcement of the proposed legislation stated that he was in full support of the RAISE Act which seeks to massively slash legal immigration into the United States.

The RAISE Act would essentially revamp the U.S. immigration system to shift its focus to allowing people to immigrate based on “merit.” However, while this has been the political focus of the RAISE Act’s supporters in describing the bill, the Act does not actually increase merit or skill-based immigration allocations over the existing amount given to these categories under the current legislation and instead merely reduces the number of green cards for family reunification purposes.

The RAISE Act Cuts Family Based Legal Immigration in Half

The RAISE Act’s supporters claim that the Act will increase the number of merit-based immigrants to the United States. However, this claim is false. The bill sets the cap for merit-based immigrants at 140,000 green cards annually which is exactly the same number apportioned to skilled workers under the current legislation structure.  

The RAISE Act’s actual practical impact on the immigration framework is restricting and stripping out pathways for siblings of U.S. citizens and adult children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for residency status in the country.

The bill would reduce the annual number of green cards from approximately 1 million to 500,000. The Act would essentially leave only spouses and minor children of citizens and residents eligible to become residents. The Act also seeks to cap all refugee admissions at 50,000 per year and eliminate the Diversity Visa Program.

With regards to merit-based immigration, the RAISE Act will shift from the current employment based system  towards a points based immigration system that doles out scores to prospective immigrants based on skills such as education, English proficiency, job ability, age, and entrepreneurial investment. This points system is rigid and would leave out important considerations for employers such as the field of work and specialized knowledge of workers.

What Are the Arguments in Favor of the RAISE Act?

In the announcement of the bill, President Trump stated that one reason for the bill was to prevent immigrant green card holders for five years from receiving any welfare. “You come in immediately and start picking up welfare. For five years, you have to say you will not be asking or using our welfare systems,” President Trump said during the RAISE Act address.

However, under existing law, legal immigrants currently cannot receive any welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and social security for five years from their arrival under Title IV of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act signed by President Bill Clinton added an additional requirement where sponsors of immigrants are required to submit affidavits of financial responsibility  (called affidavit of support) for the arriving immigrant. This requirement created a stringent barrier to public assistance for any immigrant and essentially makes the vast majority of immigrants ineligible for public assistance for five years.

What is the Future of the RAISE Act?

For the Act to become law, it must first pass the Senate. There it faces a considerable hurdle as it would need to garner 60 votes to overcome the Senate filibuster, which would mean at least eight Democratic Senators voting for it. Senator Marco Rubio thinks the prospects for the bill look dim, stating, “that bill’s not going to pass, I think the White House knows that you don’t have 60 votes for that in the Senate.”

Immigration Lawyer in Houston

Through our office in Houston, we work with clients worldwide.  Regardless of your location, if you are concerned about your immigration options, contact our office today to schedule a consultation by clicking here:

Schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Kathryn N. Karam, P.C. 

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