Raising the Right Questions
On Wednesday, President Trump announced the introduction of the RAISE Act, flanked by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia). If the RAISE Act becomes law, the federal green card system would be reformed to favor applicants who speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that contribute to our economy. The RAISE Act would prevent new immigrants from collecting welfare. The President also said the Act will in effect give American workers a pay raise by reducing low-skilled immigrant labor. Trump concluded saying that the RAISE Act ensures that new workers in our country “will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American Dream.”
I think it’s important to raise the right questions about the stated goals of the bill.
Let’s be honest—in the United States, we speak English, and I would personally support making English the official national language. I don’t think the American immigration system should exclude those who do not speak English, but an English-speaking priority is not a bad idea. Definitely, we should encourage all immigrants to learn English once they are here.
Ideally, we could have a relatively open temporary immigration system, with free flow of labor between nations. However, there are certainly immigrants (legal and illegal) who take advantage of federal and state welfare programs. Prioritizing potential immigrants who are financially self-sufficient would help curb this problem.
Based on my understanding of the bill, the RAISE Act intends to prioritize migrants who have advanced degrees or other skills that may be lacking in the American economy. We should certainly celebrate those who bring their advanced knowledge and abilities to the United States, but I don’t think we should do so at the expense of low-skilled immigrants.
The RAISE Act seems to preclude that low-skilled foreign laborers taking American jobs is a bad thing. President Trump stated that the bill would give Americans a pay raise by reducing low-skilled immigrants. Trump is right. Lower-end wages would increase due to the lack of competition. However, I am a firm believer in the free market, and I believe that more competition makes everyone better off. Competition for low-skilled jobs would incentivize Americans to improve their skills and find a better-paying job.
I am no fan of the welfare state, especially federal welfare. There are many reforms needed in the system, but one very obvious change should be the program’s aid for immigrants. If the RAISE Act can do anything about the loopholes for immigrant welfare (especially illegal immigrants), the immigration system would be much improved. The motive for immigration to the United States should be to improve one’s economic opportunity, rather than to mooch off government programs. We will get immigrants who want to succeed and who want to work hard for themselves and their families.
America is a nation built on Judeo-Christian values, and immigrants to this country should have a respect for those values. Immigrants from all backgrounds should be welcome here, but they should be willing to adhere to American ideals. They should seek to accept the American way, the way of liberty and freedom. I don’t want people to come here and force their beliefs or way of life on me, but I welcome them to come here and follow their conscience freely.
So the RAISE Act does some good things. It prioritizes English speakers and those with a drive to succeed. It prevents immigrants from receiving welfare. It does unfortunately seek to reduce low-skilled labor competition, but hopefully this can be amended in Congress. By and large, the RAISE Act improves our immigration system, and in general, I support the bill.
On a side note, the Statue of Liberty is not a rubber stamp for all immigrants coming to this country, as Jim Acosta seems to think, nor does “The New Colossus” have any binding legal weight. The Statue and poem do speak to the heart of what our immigration policy should be. “Give me your tired, your poor,” and in America, Liberty Enlightening the World will allow economic opportunity for immigrants to succeed.