Moderate Column

The RAISE Act’s points system doesn’t score with US economy

Casey Russell | Head Illustrator

The RAISE Act won't actually help any Americans. Instead, it will hurt the economy.

UPDATED: Aug. 30 at 8:49 p.m.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump made immigration reform one of his top priorities. While he hasn’t delivered a proposal for “The Wall,” the GOP has delivered its first attempt at Trump’s goal by creating the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or RAISE, Act. 

It’s a bill that does more harm than good, and not just to immigrants. Lawmakers overlooked the RAISE Act’s potential economic impact and crafted a grotesque bill that would hinder the growth of United States manufacturers — including those in central New York — by reducing the number of legal immigrants coming into the country, according to the White House website. The bill would introduce a point system to find the “right” immigrants to cut down on the number of people entering the U.S.  

TIME Magazine created an online quiz to show what a point system might look like, awarding points for investing in the U.S., having a college degree and even being an Olympic medalist. The more points users earn, the closer they come to the hypothetical 30 points it would take to become a U.S. citizen. 

I scored 19 points. Of the points I earned, fluency in English earned the most.   

At first glance, this unethical point system may seem to be the bill’s main problem. But Kristi Andersen, professor emerita of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, sees something bigger.   

“Some people have said it’s racist because it will favor high-skilled, English speaking immigrants, but I’m not sure I would call it that,” Andersen said. “I would call it damaging to the U.S. economy.” 

Under the RAISE Act, the U.S. gross domestic product would drop 0.7 percent, and 1.3 million jobs would be lost by 2027, according to a budget model from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. By 2040, the GDP would drop 2 percent and there would be a loss of 4.6 million jobs, according to the model.

wharton

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The study concluded the domestic workforce would not be able to meet the employment demand if low-skilled immigrants are denied entry to the country, which upends the misconception that an influx of unskilled immigrants would kick Americans out of industries.   

Trump’s supporters may still blame illegal immigrants for the potential loss of jobs under the RAISE Act. But this bill doesn’t cover illegal immigration at all, nor does it provide a path to citizenship for legal immigrants.   

In central New York, the RAISE bill should be especially concerning for employers. There are 180 international resident doctors at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University Hospital, including eight from previously travel-banned countries, according to Syracuse.com. Those doctors could have been rejected under the RAISE bill. 

Likewise, New York state Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, recently held a roundtable with upstate manufacturers who say they are running out of potential workers. Americans keep graduating and looking for service jobs, but central New York and the southern tier need manufacturing labor. It’s a void immigrants could fill if workers with lighter educational backgrounds aren’t barred from entering the U.S.  

A point system could work, Andersen said — but not if it only takes high-skilled jobs into account. Thankfully, political experts believe the bill will fail because it will need 60 votes to pass the Senate. It would only work in the U.S. if, as Andersen said, there was “a rational system of saying: ‘Where are the holes in the economy? Where are we short of employees?’”  

This lackluster bill doesn’t ask these questions. If the RAISE Act doesn’t fall, the American economy will. 

Jefferson Fenner is a sophomore broadcast journalism major and political science minor. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at jfenner@syr.edu or on Twitter @jeffersonfenner.
This article has been updated for appropriate style.

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