The bill faced united opposition from the Democrats. It was officially doomed when seven Republican senators opposed it, making passage even by a simple majority unattainable.
Even though the Act is considered dead for 2017, I think it is worthwhile to examine some of the false claims made by its sponsors (Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia), the president, and other supporters.
The United States has previously experimented with cutting off immigration, and the result was not higher wages. The elimination of the bracero program in 1964 cut off an annual supply of roughly 500,000 Mexican farmworkers. Some states saw their agricultural workforce decrease by ⅔ and the only tangible economic effect was higher prices at the supermarket.
In a stinging rebuke, Alex Nowrasteh from the ultra-conservative Cato Institute claimed the RAISE Act “would do nothing to boost skilled immigration and it will only increase the proportion of employment-based green cards by cutting other green cards. Saying otherwise is grossly deceptive marketing.”
Lowering Welfare Rolls
“They’re not going to come in and just immediately go and collect welfare. That doesn’t happen under the RAISE Act.” — President Trump
The president’s words are disingenuous. The proposed changes in the law would have little effect on the number of immigrants on welfare because the changes would only apply to skill-based (as opposed to family-based) green cards—a population with already very low rates of receiving public assistance.
Furthermore, new immigrants do not “immediately go and collect welfare,” because there is already a law in place to prevent that. New immigrants cannot collect public assistance even after obtaining their green card status.
Raising the GDP
The president has made the claim that reducing legal immigration will drive up the GDP in the U.S. Most economists disagree with this assertion, and 1,400 of them penned a letter to the president claiming that immigration has a “broad economic benefit” for the entire economy. In contrast, standard budgeting models show the RAISE Act increasing the GDP by 0.2% before actually decreasing it.
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”