Trump’s Merit-Based Immigration: A Return to Sanity and Sovereignty
Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or RAISE Act, is pragmatic and, if successful, will mark a return to sanity in policy.
Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue joined President Trump to reveal the plan to reform America’s immigration system. Trump’s merit-based system would see the number of immigrants admitted per year reduced and set to a fixed number, with priority for green card legal immigration going to those who, as Tucker Carlson puts it, “might help the country.” In essence, it is tantamount to the Canadian and Australian immigration systems.
The RAISE Act aims to end “chain immigration” — the preference of the current system to grant green cards to immigrants who already have family living in the U.S. — eliminate the failed Diversity Visa Lottery system, and limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year.
Instead, Trump’s reform would implement a point-based system in which immigrants would be awarded green cards based on factors such as skills, speaking English, and being financially self-sufficient. Family immigration would be limited to the nuclear family — spouses and minor children. However, the RAISE Act would permit U.S. citizens to bring over elderly parents in need of caretaking, but on renewable nonimmigrant visas (no green cards or citizenship) and they would have to prove that they had purchased health insurance beforehand.
The most controversial aim of the RAISE Act, to reduce legal immigration by 50%, would bring annual permanent immigration down to 500,000–600,000 a year — still more than any other nation.
The facts are on the side of the White House, immigration reform is long overdue, and the RAISE Act — flaws and all — is a step in the right direction. While it is true that immigration can be mutually beneficial and desirable, it has reached a point in the U.S. where it is neither. Key findings in a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) on the fiscal and economic impact of immigration on the United States affirms the necessity of the RAISE Act, several of which contradict the doomsaying cosmopolitan leftists and self-serving economists:
- George Borjas, the nation's leading immigration economist estimates that the presence of immigrant workers (legal and illegal) in the labor market makes the U.S. economy (GDP) an estimated 11 percent larger ($1.6 trillion) each year.x
- But Borjas cautions, "This contribution to the aggregate economy, however, does not measure the net benefit to the native-born population." This is because 97.8 percent of the increase in GDP goes to the immigrants themselves in the form of wages and benefits.x
- Using the standard to textbook model of the economy, Borjas further estimates that the net gain to natives equals just 0.2 percent of the total GDP in the United States — from both legal and illegal immigration. This benefit is referred to as the immigrant surplus.x
- To generate the surplus of $35 billion, immigration reduces the wages of natives in competition with immigrants by an estimated $402 billion a year, while increasing profits or the incomes of users of immigrants by an estimated $437 billion.x
- The last 13 years have seen very weak employment growth, whether measured by the establishment survey or the household survey. Over the same time period 16 million new immigrants arrived from abroad.x One can debate the extent to which immigrants displace natives, but the last 13 years make clear that large-scale immigration does not necessarily result in large-scale job growth.
- The just-released Heritage Foundation study found that households headed by a legal immigrant who had not graduated high school used, on average, $36,993 more in services than they paid in taxes. Households headed by a legal immigrant with only a high school education created a net fiscal deficit of $18,327, those with some college created a deficit of $7,489 and those headed by an immigrant with at least a college education created a fiscal benefit of $24,529.x
- The National Research Council (NRC) estimated in 1996 that immigrant households (legal and illegal) create a net fiscal burden (taxes paid minus services used) on all levels of government of between $11.4 billion and $20.2 billion annually.x
- 59 percent of households headed by an immigrant who has not graduated high school access one or more welfare programs, and 70 percent have no federal income tax liability. In contrast, 16 percent of households headed by an immigrant with bachelor's degree access welfare and only 21 percent had no federal income tax liability.
In short, the RAISE Act is — like the CIS motto —low-immigration and pro-immigrant.
Critics of Trump’s common sense immigration reform were quick to sharpen their knives, firing back in predictable and unoriginal form. The Cato Institute is rapid-fire jotting multiple ramblings, doomsaying Trump’s proposed immigration reform, but conveniently omitting the fact that this is a system that has worked so well for Canada and Australia.