Financially stable, well-educated, English speakers prioritized over families, refugees, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – August 3, 2017

img_2530The immigration legislation sponsored by two Republican Senators and endorsed by Trump calls for a leaner and much meaner immigration policy, including:

  • cutting legal immigration by half;
  • giving high priority to immigrants who speak English, have higher education and employment qualifications, and have money – this is called “merit-based;”
  • giving low priority to family members and family reunification;
  • permanently lowering refuge admissions to 50,000 a year.

Democrats, immigrant advocacy groups, business organizations, and even Republicans don’t like the Raise Act, according to Bloomberg News:

“The ideas offered by Cotton and Perdue have so far gotten little traction among their colleagues. Some lawmakers — including Republicans — argue that low-skilled laborers help stimulate the economy, particularly in sectors like construction and agriculture. They point to decreasing unemployment rates as evidence that on the whole, Americans are able to find the work they want.

“I fear this proposal will not only hurt our agriculture, tourism and service economy in South Carolina, it incentivizes more illegal immigration as positions go unfilled,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said in a statement.”

As the Los Angeles Times points out, the “merit-based” system favoring people who speak English, have money, and have more education and job skills is a stark contrast to the current system:

“The current U.S. immigration system favors uniting family members with relatives already in the country and was built on the premise that any person, regardless of what language they speak, how much education or money they have, can seek to come to the United States.”

Chances for passage of the Raise Act look slim at this time, but passage isn’t really the point of its introduction or of the August 2 press conferences and endorsement by Trump. Rather, after a string of defeats, this bill offers another chance for Trump to whip up support in his base with the immigrant bashing that has worked so well for him in the past.

“This competitive application system will favour applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that can contribute to the US economy,” Mr Trump said. 

“[Presidential spokesperson Stephen] Miller dismissed criticism that the proposed bill would upend the American principle, embodied in a poem etched into the base of the Statue of Liberty, that “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” are welcome in the nation. “The New Colossus,” the sonnet by Emma Lazarus, “was added later” and “is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty,” Miller told a CNN reporter who asked about it. 

“In the United States, an immigrant or a child of an immigrant founded more than 40 percent of our Fortune 500 companiesOne in every 10 Americans who work at a private company in the United States works for an immigrant. Despite accounting for just 14 percent of the population, immigrants make up nearly 30 percent of all new U.S. entrepreneurs, and their businesses employ nearly 6 million workers across the United States.”

““Limiting immigration to the U.S. is a grave mistake,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The only way to meaningfully increase U.S. economic growth on a sustained basis anytime soon is to increase immigration.”  

“The legislation would award points based on education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. But while it would still allow spouses and minor children of Americans and legal residents to come in, it would eliminate preferences for other relatives, like siblings and adult children. The bill would create a renewable temporary visa for older-adult parents who come for caretaking purposes.” 

And in other immigration news

Border Agents Test Facial Scans to Track Those Overstaying Visas (New York Times, 8/1/17)

“An executive order signed in January by President Trump would require all travelers to the United States to provide biometric data on entry and exit from the country. Currently, visitors provide biometric data only when they enter the country.” 

ICE’s latest raids swept up more than 500 whose only crime was being in the United States (Mother Jones, 8/1/17) The raids supposedly targeted “criminals,” but only one-fifth of those arrested had any criminal record.

“Immigration and Custom Enforcement announced on Tuesday that it had arrested 650 people, including 38 minors, in its latest round of raids, which took place July 23 through July 26…. “ICE claims the targets of its recent sweeps—families and young adults who came here as unaccompanied minors—are the subjects of removal orders by federal judges. But it is unclear how many of the 650 arrestees were on the target list or how these lists are created to begin with.” 

The Americans waiting to welcome refugees who may never come (Vox, 8/1/17)

“The president of the United States and his government has broadcast the message far and wide: America is no longer greeting refugees with open arms. Many communities — in red states as well as blue — mobilized and are more determined than ever to welcome refugees….

“The problem was that the same refugee ban that had spurred volunteers’ interest took away the most obvious ways they could get involved.

“It feels like every time the ban gets stayed, the whole community is just swelling with excitement and encouragement,” Linn says. “And then every time that gets overturned or there’s a new executive order or whatever, we all just kind of plummet together into disappointment and discouragement.”

Inquiries about immigration status will be barred in most civil liability cases under a new California law (Los Angeles Times, 7/31/17)

Still No Action Taken: Complaints Against Border Patrol Agents Continue to Go Unanswered (American Immigration Council, 8/2/17) A new report details the number of complaints and instances of agents “using excessive force, detaining people under inhumane conditions, and using coercion and misinformation to remove people from the United States” and the agency’s consistent failure to take action.

Nation’s top immigration cop says employers should worry about crackdown (Dallas Morning News, 8/2/17)

“The immigration crackdown supported by President Donald Trump will make employers its next target, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said this week.

“You are going to see a lot more work-site enforcement this year,” Thomas Homan said. “We will take action against those employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens.” 

A soccer star from Gaithersburg won a college scholarship. But ICE plans to deport him. (Washington Post, 7/31/17) Neither brother has a criminal record. Neither was a priority for deportation under the Obama administration. Now they are.

“Claros Saravia, 19, who had a scholarship to play college soccer in North Carolina, was detained along with his older brother, Diego, in Baltimore on Friday following one of their regular check-ins with immigration officials.”




About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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