In what he’s calling “the most significant reform to the immigration system in half a century,” President Trump submitted a bill to the Senate today that would slash the number of green cards issued by half, prioritize English speakers and introduce a merit-based point system for applicants seeking green cards.
The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) ACT was initially introduced in the Senate in April. The new proposals submitted today added harsher stipulations as to who receives the “golden ticket,” as Trump’s senior advisor for policy, Stephen Miller, referred to green cards during a White House press conference.
Currently, 1 million green cards are issued. Under the new policy, that number would be cut in half. Immigrants are eligible to apply for a green card through various categories, including through family members who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents or through employment. Green cards provide residency and work authorization to individuals, and also provide a fast track to citizenship, the ability to assist in immigrating family members and access to benefits afforded to citizens, like welfare services.
Under the new proposal, those seeking green cards would be ranked on a points system that would give higher priority to people who:
1. Speak English.
2. Have the ability to financially support themselves and their families.
3. Have a skill considered to contribute to the U.S. economy.
4. Are paid a high wage in their field. They would receive incremental points if their hiring company pays one, two, three, etc. times the median wage.
The updated bill also strictly limits “chain migration,” meaning the ability to assist relatives in immigrating to the U.S. Under the reform, people can only bring their spouse and a minor child/children to the U.S. Elderly relatives, siblings or other relatives would have to apply through the points system.
In today’s press conference, Miller said chain migration has lead to a large influx of unskilled migrants. As a result, immigrants are to blame for high unemployment rates amongst African-American, Hispanic and blue collar workers, as well as previous immigrants who have to compete with them for jobs. According to Miller, they are also to blame for companies paying low wages because they’re willing to work for less.
Miller did not provide any hard evidence or statistics when asked to do so during the press conference, and mostly relied on what he called “common sense.”
The current green card system also, according to Miller, costs tax payers since half of immigrant households receive welfare benefits.
This proposal falls in line with Trump’s campaign promises and, as Miller claims, reflects the desires of the American people.
“Maybe it’s time we have compassion for American workers,” Miller said in the press conference.
The proposal and Miller’s statements during the press conference caused an uproar on social media and among the journalists at the press conference.
CNN’s Jim Acosta accused the Trump administration of “trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country” by prioritizing English speakers. Acosta added that it goes against what is written on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Acosta said: “It doesn’t say anything [on the Statue of Liberty] about speaking English. Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you are telling them they have to speak English?”
That did not go over well. See the whole exchange below.
It’s no doubt Latino immigrants would especially be affected by this new addition to the bill.
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a nonpartisan nonprofit that analyzes migration data and refugee policies, reports that in 2015, 45% of U.S. immigrants identified as Hispanic or Latino. That accounts for 19.5 million people. They also report that in the same year, the largest population with limited proficiency in English are Spanish speakers, who account for 64 percent of the U.S. population. Forty-nine percent of the 43 million immigrants in America in 2015 spoke little-to-no English. So it’s safe to say that Spanish speakers are especially being targeted by the new policy favoring English speakers.
The bill also discriminates against the elderly, who are less likely to earn merit points. It also directly targets Latinos as they make up a large portion of the workforce in the fields of hospitality, agriculture, and construction, which are widely considered as jobs in which unskilled immigrants are employed. In other words, migrant workers picking fruit in fields will have a much harder time attaining green cards as the new bill prioritizes immigrants with higher education levels and with careers that pay high wages.
As Miller put it, the bill ends “unskilled chain migration, but making sure great minds, inventors, innovators, scientists can come into the U.S.”
Trump’s administration assumes American citizens are willing to do the jobs immigrants have taken on. If this ill passes, we will see if that’s true, though many have heavy doubts.
Still, Miller insists public support for this bill is “immense” and challenged media outlets to poll their readers.