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How the RAISE Act Could Impact U.S. Immigration

On Thursday, August 2, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act. The RAISE Act is clearly designed to drastically reduce legal immigration and also shows a clear bias towards certain favored groups of potential immigrants.

The proposed legislation would limit immigration levels by doing the following:

  • Severely limit the family members for whom U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can petition. U.S. citizens and permanent residents would be able to only petition for their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18; they could no longer petition for parents, siblings, married children, or children over 18:
  • Completely revamp the employment based immigration system. Instead of having a system based on specific job offers or ability to invest, the proposed law would grant green cards based on a merit system, in which points are awarded based on education level, English proficiency, age, having a job offer, extraordinary achievements, and certain investments of at least $1.35 million in a new commercial enterprise. This means that certain extremely qualified applicants could be excluded from immigrating to the United States, even if they have an advanced degree or a job offer.
  • Eliminate the Diversity Lottery: Under current law, 50,000 visas per year are given out to people from underrepresented countries. These visas would be completely eliminated by the RAISE Act.
  • Cap refugee admissions at 50,000 per year, a significant reduction from present levels.

The potential impact of this law cannot be overstated: the number of immigrants allowed into the United States per year would be slashed drastically (a common prediction is that legal immigration would be halved in 10 years), U.S. citizens would find themselves unable to petition for their loved ones (including their parents), and employers would likely find themselves unable to petition for workers they need to fill the jobs.

Note we do not believe this bill is likely to pass, as we are hopeful that Democrats and more moderate Republicans will succeed in blocking it. We do not think there is a reason to panic. However, those who are nervous about losing the ability to petition for their family members or employees are encouraged to consult with an immigration lawyer. If you have specific questions about how this proposed bill could impact you, your family, your friends, or your employees, do not hesitate to contact our office.

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