All You Need to Know about the “RAISE” Immigration Plan

Posted on August 24, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Change ≠ Reform


RAISE Immigration Reform - Catholic Charities on El Diario

Hot off the press! All you need to know about the just-proposed RAISE immigration reform plan straight from Catholic Charities NY’s immigration expert C. Mario Russell, Esq.

By C. Mario Russell

Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant & Refugee Services


Donald Trump endorsed an immigration reform plan this month offered by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., which would significantly restrict legal immigration. The proposal, called the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, shifts immigration away from a system based on family ties and towards one based on high-level skills and education.

Refugee admissions would be cut in half to 50,000 people per year, and the international visa “diversity lottery” that currently selects applicants from countries with low immigration rates would be eliminated altogether.

RAISE also restructures employment immigration into a merit-based point system. By reading like an advertisement for highly skilled, wealthy workers who are proficient in English it appears engineered against those traditionally categorized as minorities.

Shift Away from Strivers

At first glance, an immigration system based only on skills and “merit” may sound like a good idea. Yet it is a given that family support nurtures talent, that necessity is the mother of invention.  These realities are ignored in this proposed law, supplanted instead by a false belief that the “haves” would be greater strivers than those who cannot rely on hereditary achievements for success. 

RAISE creates roadblocks for future trailblazers who seek to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Carlos Santana who languished in Tijuana before making music history in the U.S; Do Won, a Korean-born former janitor before founding Forever 21 and Betro Perez, the Columbia-born aerobics instructor who founded Zumba Fitness

Facts are Facts

Some senators and media supporting RAISE  say  the law will prevent immigrants from coming here to collect welfare.  Yet these supporters have an obligation to know – and share - the facts. 

The fact is that most immigrants are not entitled to receive benefits for five years after their arrival.  The wisdom behind this rule is that within this time immigrants could either succeed independently or, unable to support themselves, abandon their goal of immigration.

Proponents also argue that RAISE would ensure immigrants learn English and better assimilate.  Yet they ignore the fact that to qualify for citizenship under current law immigrant families must learn English and pass exams demonstrating mastery of the American culture.

Change ≠ Reform

 As one critic noted, it is ironic that under the system proposed by this bill, Friedrich Trump – Donald Trump’s grandfather – would likely not have been allowed into this country when he arrived in 1885. He was German, without English fluency, and offered only the skills of a barber’s apprentice.  Yet his grandson, thanks to existing immigration laws, today serves as president of the United States.

Change, alone, does not equal reform. By ignoring the known, proven and historic value of family ties, diversity and incentives to succeed, the Raise Act could lower our nation’s potential to create strong employment.

Mario Russell, Director of Catholic Charities Immigrant and Refugee Services, is an attorney, St. John’s University law professor, and regular contributor to the leading Spanish-language newspaper, “El Diario.”

Read this in Spanish in El Diario

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