When President Donald Trump stood with Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) Wednesday at the White House to introduce the RAISE Act, it represented the first serious effort to reduce immigration since our current immigration system was instituted two generations ago.
The bill promises to cut legal immigration roughly in half and replace decades of ineffective criteria that have allowed mass third-world immigration with a “points system” that emphasizes ability to contribute to the American economy and assimilate to our English-speaking nation.
Since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, popularly known as the Hart-Cellar act after its co-sponsors Rep. Phillip Hart (D-MI) and Rep. Emanuel Cellar (D-NY), legal immigration to the United States has exploded. Whereas, under the pre-1965 immigration regime, America admitted an average of fewer than 200,000 new immigrants a year, the Hart-Cellar Act rapidly removed barriers to entry and allowed typical yearly numbers to rise to more than quintuple.
Speaking in support of Hart-Cellar’s passage on the Senate floor, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) famously told his colleagues that, “[O]ur cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.”
In fact, since the 1965 Act, legal immigration has usually topped one million new arrivals per year. Census estimates from 2015 show that, under the current system, more than one-fifth of those in the United States will be foreign-born by 2060, an all-time high outpacing even the great “Ellis Island” wave of migration at the turn of the last century. Meanwhile, a 2008 study by the immigration restriction group Numbers USA shows that the decedents of post-1970 immigrants, mostly of a decidedly different “ethnic mix” than pre-1965 America, will make up 42 percent of the population by the same year.
In addition to massively expanding the amount and broadening the origins of legal immigrants, the 1965 Act changed the primary focus of the American immigration system to “family reunification,” a principle intended to reserve the lion’s share of the immigration quota for Americans’ relatives from abroad but which has, in practice, allowed “chain migration” by which one immigrant in turn can bring over an ever increasing circle of relatives, to become widespread. The RAISE Act seeks explicitly to end chain migration and return the focus of immigration to what benefits Americans.
Jason Richwine, a National Review contributor and immigration researcher who has worked with the Center for Immigration Studies, spoke with Breitbart News about his thoughts on the RAISE Act and the prospect of reversing the deficiencies of Hart-Cellar. Of the new bill, he said:
It does a lot of things that I think are long overdue. In ’65, the emphasis was on “family reunification,” which, at the time, seemed to make sense because the thought was it would be fairly limited category: people who were already here adding just a few people that were related to them. But it really expanded greatly and turned into a gigantic chain migration issue … It created, I think, an immigration system that no one really ever intended to have. I don’t think anyone ever sat down and said “you know what, we should have an immigration system where we bring in over a million people a year and something like 80 or 90 percent of them are coming through chain migration.”
In contrast, the RAISE Act’s points system with focus on factors like education and in-demand skills and, unlike previous initiatives with similar language, contains stringent and applicable English language proficiency requirements.
Like Richwine, Dale Wilcox, executive director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal sister organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, was optimistic about the RAISE Act’s shift away from “family reunification.” “Ending the current nepotistic system that puts family-ties (mostly Mexican and Latin American) ahead what our country actually needs is certainly a good start. It’d clip the disastrous system put in place with the Immigration Act of 1965,” he told Breitbart News.
“But swapping it with a giant amnesty will still kill the rule of law in this country as well as hurt the Mexican/Latin American people who need DACA beneficiaries to return and reform the region,” Wilcox added, emphasizing the need for further reform of the current immigration system at the executive level.
The RAISE Act has already attracted support from administration officials and leaders in both houses of Congress.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, for decades, led the fight against mass immigration in the Senate, issued the following statement shortly after the RAISE Act’s White House announcement:
This proposal will help the Department of Justice perform its duties to uphold our nation’s immigration law and end the unlawful abuse of our public benefits program that undermine U.S. taxpayers. The higher entry standards established in this proposal will allow authorities to do a more thorough job reviewing applicants for entry, therefore protecting the security of the U.S. homeland. The additional time spent on vetting each application as a result of this legislation will also ensure that each application serves the national interest.
The American people deserve a lawful immigration system that promotes our national interest. The RAISE Act would give us a more merit-based immigration system that admits the best and the brightest around the world while making it harder for people to come here illegally. The bill would end programs known to be rife with fraud and abuse and finally improve the vetting process, making our country–and working-class wages–much safer and stronger.
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chariman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), added:
The United States has the most generous legal immigration system in the world. However, we only select between 5-12% of immigrants on the basis of the education and skills they can bring to America. Other countries, such as Canada, the U.K., and Australia, select over 60% of immigrants based on skills. In order to remain competitive in the global economy, this must change.