President Trump with Senators Tom Cotton (left) and David Perdue discussing immigration reform, August 2, 2017. (Photo: Andrea Hanks/White House)

September 1, 2017 Zach Skerl 2Comment

America needs immigration reform and that comes in the RAISE Act.

Everybody who has taken the ACT or SAT remembers sitting in a classroom nervously penciling in answers and double-checking their work before time ran out. Colleges all over the United States use your scores on these tests, your GPA, and other considerations as part of their evaluation of prospective students. This is not because colleges have disdain for you if you fail to score well against their criteria — this is because they try to make sure that the students admitted will perform well and succeed in their coursework at a particular school. This concept of merit-based admission is generally accepted as it pertains to higher learning institutions, but is widely disparaged as an immigration policy by some all over the political spectrum.

The RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act was introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Senator Tom Cotton (R- AR) in February. This bill aims to reform immigration in many ways, but I’d like to focus on two main points — creating a merit-based points system for determining which people will be allowed into the U.S., and cutting the number of legal immigrants in half. These two reforms to our immigration system will not only help improve the U.S. economy, but also the economy and political climate of developing nations around the world.

On a family vacation this summer, I went to New York City to gawk at the sights with countless thousands of other tourists. I also got the chance to visit Ellis Island and learn about what my ancestors would have experienced once they disembarked the ocean liner onto American soil. Johann Skerlje left his home in modern-day Salzburg, Austria to travel to France and catch an ocean liner to America. Upon arrival, he underwent a medical examination to prove that he had neither a communicable disease, nor crippling disability.

Having passed the first test, he was then subject to interrogation by an immigration official in relation to his political beliefs (whether or not he was an anarchist, polygamist, etc.) and where he intended on planting his roots if allowed entry into the United States. Johann was then required to prove he had enough money to purchase transportation to his desired location, being Cleveland, Ohio. The purpose of the questioning was not to discriminate against Johann or anyone else based on their race, color, or creed — it was to have some assurance that the immigrant would be able to support themselves and not be a strain on American social resources.

Just like Notre Dame didn’t accept me with test scores below their averages and set me up for academic failure, U.S. immigration officials turned people away from Ellis Island if success in the US was not possible for the individual. The RAISE Act would set up a points-based system similar to those that countries like Australia and Canada have in place. Under the RAISE Act, prospective immigrants of all nationalities and backgrounds who speak English, have an education or job training, or possess other desirable characteristics would be more likely to gain entry to the United States. This would help ensure that America is truly getting the best of the best and that we’re not setting new immigrants up for failure.

“…the brain drain the US is causing to developing countries around the globe is quite substantial.”

Over one million immigrants are admitted into the U.S. every year — some are indeed the best and brightest that their home counties have to offer, while others are destitute or fleeing from persecution and strife. America is certainly a nation built by the success of immigrants and their naturalized descendants throughout generations. However, the problem that we run into with today’s immigration policies is removal of human capital from developing countries.

For every doctor from Ghana the U.S. accepts and naturalizes, fewer Ghanaians receive medical care. Every engineer from India we take leaves their home country with less ability to improve their infrastructure. The specific occupations in the example were chosen for a reason — they often tend to be better connected, have higher median salaries, have occupations that are in high demand in their home countries, and are also very likely to want to immigrate to the United States. A few such cases are relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but when magnified by a million immigrants each year over decades, the brain drain the US is causing to developing countries around the globe is quite substantial.

This video from Numbers USA does a great job of explaining how immigration does not help alleviate world poverty and suffering; rather, it contributes to poor conditions by allowing people who would be agents of change for their home country to move to the US. Imagine if the Founding Fathers — some being more reluctant than others — disillusioned with life in the colonies, packed up and headed to a different country to pursue their professions away from British rule. This is only one example, but apply that same concept to today’s immigration situation and one starts to wonder how the world would look today given the same circumstances.

America needs immigration reform. This is not because Republicans are “anti-immigrant” (or whatever label you prefer), it is simply a matter of helping people succeed in what they do. Immigrants admitted to the U.S. should be a net benefit the country and those around them and support themselves and their family. Instead of draining a developing country’s human capital resources, we should help support them and their people where they live. America needs immigration reform, and the RAISE Act is a great way to start.

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  • j99f

    One million immigrants a year was for last 40+ years! Yes this a fight between the people and our business leaders and finance peddlers who will think nothing of lowering the quality of life for the rest of the country as long as they (the few) are taken care of. Trump is still the hope for the marginalized, and reducing immigration levels must remain a priority.

  • DonHonda
    The Conscience Of A Liberal–Paul Krugman

    “First, the benefits of immigration to the population already here are small.”
    ” But as Mr. Hanson explains in his paper, reasonable calculations suggest that we’re talking about very small numbers, perhaps as little as 0.1 percent of GDP.

    “My second negative point is that immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand…

    “Finally, the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear. “