Politics

Trump Throws Weight Behind Legal Immigration Limits

August 2nd 2017

By:
Kyle Jaeger

President Donald Trump threw his support behind a plan to dramatically reduce the number of legal immigrants who are allowed to enter the United States on Wednesday.

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The RAISE Act would cut the number of green card approvals by half, place a cap on the U.S. refugee program, and impose a "merit-based" immigration system that prioritizes applicants who speak English, have higher education, and possess certain job skills.

If passed, the immigration law would represent a win for the president, who campaigned on a promise to introduce merit-based immigration. The bill's supporters argue that the current immigration system harms the economy by allowing low-skill workers to enter and occupy jobs that could have gone to U.S. citizens.

As MSNBC contributor Joy Reid wrote in a tweet thread on Wednesday, the immigration push—alongside the Justice Department's review of affirmative action—seemed to focus on rolling back programs that benefit people of color, while not producing any tangible benefit.

Critics of merit-based immigration system argue that this bill would effectively discriminate against applicants based on criterion such as education level and English proficiency—but it would also cause job losses in industries that depend on low-skill immigrant labor, ultimately harming the economy.

A 2016 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also raises doubts about the idea that low-skill immigrants take jobs or depress wages for U.S. citizens. Economists "found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the long term."

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The timing of the immigration policy shift could make matters worse if it passes.

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"Limiting legal immigration is opposed by business groups, which rely on low-skilled workers for agriculture and other jobs," NPR reported. "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."

“An emphasis on so-called ‘merit-based’ immigration is a manipulative and misleading ploy that inaccurately suggests less legal immigration means more jobs for American workers,” Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, wrote in a statement emailed to ATTN:. “Economists from both sides of the political spectrum clearly and consistently reject this. The economic consequences and impact on American families would be devastating.”