After the Healthcare Fail Trump Returns to Immigration

In an effort to change the national conversation after the humiliating failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Trump returned to one of his favorite themes – how immigration hurts the American worker and the American economy. As he often does, Trump claims that the legislation is intended to protect American jobs but this is a mirage that disappears upon examination. The real intent is to rally his base at a moment when he has been shown to be weak and ineffective. The truth is that Trump’s proposal to limit immigration dishonors our best traditions and makes us all poorer.

The endorsement of the RAISE act – Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment - was only one of several gestures President Trump made to appease his nationalist supporters this past week. We also found out about a new Department of Justice attack on affirmative action programs in college admissions and renewed attacks on “Sanctuary Cities.”  

The intent of the proposed immigration policy is simple – fewer people, from fewer countries will be admitted under the RAISE act. The legislation, introduced by Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, would cut total immigration by 50% and change who we allow into the country.

Current immigration policy in the U.S. focuses on maintaining families and admitting individuals of varied skills from across the world. RAISE supporters claim that their act shifts the focus to bring in wealthier, higher skilled immigrants. In reality, RAISE drastically cuts total immigration and closes off admission for lower skilled migrants. Importantly, the RAISE act rejects America’s historic preference for family connection as a criterion for immigration; this is dehumanizing and counter productive.

Trump sees our current economy as a limited resource that must be protected against outsiders.  He and his nativist supporters claim that by limiting low skill immigration they will force employers to pay higher wages to those currently holding low skill jobs.

This is exactly the opposite of what we know from research and experience about how immigration works.  In fact, lower skilled immigrants take jobs few native born Americans want, at wages that the native born worker will not accept. Experience shows that when the immigrants are not available for the low wage labor, employers either substitute labor saving technology or eliminate the jobs altogether. For many immigrants, the low wage American jobs are a step up from their previous lives and a foothold in a new world with greater opportunity.  From a broader system perspective, the wages immigrants spend buying food, transportation, clothing, toys, etc. lead to more jobs elsewhere in the economy.  

Lawmakers are right to be worried about wages and job opportunities for lesser educated Americans but RAISE will not give them a raise. It is simply a way to slash immigration. In doing so, it will drive a wedge between immigrants and their families and create labor shortages in low wage jobs. As we have noted in other issues of MWR, Congress does need to provide a path to citizenship that regularizes those undocumented citizens who have been living and working here for many years

Call To Action

Call your Senators AND Representatives and tell them you oppose the RAISE/Cotton-Purdue legislation. Immigration is a vital component of theAmerican economy – from agriculture to the technology sector.  Do not limit those who can build our economy.

The Hard Ask: will you work for a bipartisan solution to our current immigration policy that is open to a wide variety of immigrants, and addresses all the outstanding issues that decades of inaction has created

Limerick of the week

It seems, “Give me your tired, your poor…”
Doesn’t mean very much anymore.
You’re okay if you’re skilled.
You speak English? We’re thrilled
Otherwise, please don’t darken our door