During the recent attempts at ACA overhaul, Donald Trump was shown just how fragile Republican control in the Senate actually is. Presuming a unified Democrat opposition, Republicans can stand only two defections in order for Mike Pence to break a tie. So what’s the next bill the POTUS wants Congress to consider? He wants to cut legal immigration in half.
Trump wanting an immigration bill as a priority is no surprise. He essentially announced his initial campaign for the Presidency by labeling immigrants as those who were “bringing drugs”, “bringing crime.” He even went so far as to asy in the same breath, “They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”. Trump’s major campaign themes moving forward seemed to spring from an opposition to immigration, trade, and anyone he felt remotely slighted him or posed a threat.
Overall, the RAISE bill is modeled upon the immigration systems of Canada and Australia, which are much more particular about who is let in than the US has ever been. Allowable immigration to these countries is primarily based upon employment skill sets which are in demand in those countries and not being serviced adequately by current citizens.
There are reforms within the bill that, taken on their own, could pass, allowing us to see a successful “skinny” immigration bill once Trump’s inevitably fails. It attempts to introduce a more merit-based screening process which does more to consider factors like marketable skills desired by US firms, proficiency in English, and “entrepreneurial initiative”, however that’s determined. Essentially, it attempts to shift the focus from family ties to how much a potential immigrant could potentially contribute to the US economy and assimilate into a broader American culture.
Of course, those determining what contributes to the US economy would be a government that’s $20 trillion in debt and the special interests which often control it. Those who would be determining what qualifies as American culture would be a Congress which is roughly 80% male, overwhelmingly white, Christian, aging group in an institution which is stereotypically (and deservedly so) considered a lagging indicator of culture.
For, what I assume, was included to add a talking point, the bill also bars new immigrants from any federal welfare programs for five years… which current law already essentially does. The 1996 Welfare Reform Bill signed by Bill Clinton already bars new immigrants from federal welfare programs, with very limited exceptions like children. It would end the Diversity Visa program, which was set up to encourage immigration from nations which are underrepresented in overall immigration to the US through other means. The keywords of “welfare” and “diversity” come loaded with connotations that I’m sure him and his new communications director (whoever it ends up being) will make use of when pushing for this bill.
Lindsey Graham has already voiced opposition to the bill. In a Facebook post, he mentioned that “I’ve always supported merit-based immigration”, but went on to call such a drastic cut in immigration “devastating” to the economy, and that it “will not only hurt our agriculture, tourism and service economy in South Carolina, it incentivizes more illegal immigration as positions go unfilled.” With Lindsey’s early departure, Trump can only lose one more vote, as no Democrats are expected to cross the aisle to vote for anything like what he’s proposing.
But hey… I guess Trump will at least be able to say he tried to fulfill one more of his campaign promises, and will have someone to blame other than himself and his “best people.”
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