The RAISE Act – a quick diversion for Republicans and the Trump Administration

By: Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq

SOUTH FLORIDA – For generations, the principle of American immigration has been family reunification. It is the primary vehicle by which millions of immigrants have migrated to the United States of America for decades and it has served to keep families together.

Currently Congress has allotted 226,000 visas per year for non-immediate family members, i.e. adult sons and daughters of US citizens; spouses, minor children and adult sons and daughters of Green Card holders; married sons and daughters of US citizens and siblings of US citizens.

Due to high demand and limited number of visas it can take as long as 13 years for some family members to be reunited. Spouses of US citizens, minor children of US citizens and parents of US citizens are immediate relatives and there is an unlimited number of visas available for those persons.

Two Republican Senators David Perdue (R-GA), and Tom Cotton (R-AK) introduced the RAISE Act – “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act” S-354, that would among other things cut legal immigration to the United States by half in 10 years.

The bill would eliminate all categories for family reunification with the exception of spouses and minor children of US citizens and Green Card holders.

Just stop and think how many of you would not be eligible to migrate to the United States under the RAISE Act.

The Bill also proposes to establish a merit based migration system that would seek to allow primarily the highly educated and English speakers to migrate. The angle is that this would benefit the economy and provide low skilled employment to the current unemployed in the US.

The RAISE Act – a quick diversion for Republicans and the Trump Administration

It is worth repeating here the often-spoken adage that America is a nation of immigrants – both illegal and legal.

The RAISE Act would disproportionately have a negative impact on the Caribbean and Latin America, but it is viewed by its supporters as positive for low skilled US workers.

Keep in mind that many industries in America have a difficult if not impossible time of finding qualified workers, and that just a couple weeks ago the Trump Family made a petition for seasonal (H-2B) workers for their Mara Lago Resort in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Over the last twenty years various studies in the United States, including the Pew Research Center have indicated that by 2050 white Americans will be in the minority in America and these reports have led to the phrase, “The Browning of America”.

This shift in the decrease in the white population will be reached through immigration and birth rates. It is no secret that in recent years more Latino, Caribbean, Asian and African immigrants have been coming to America than from the previous countries of Europe.

These new “Brown” immigrants have continued to help shape the fabric of America and have contributed to her sustained economic progress. The new immigrants have also overwhelmingly contributed to their home countries primarily though remittances.

In Jamaica alone remittances vies with income from Tourism as the highest foreign exchange earner for the country. It is recent immigrants who have family members left back in their home countries who primarily send remittances home.

19, 206 Jamaicans became permanent residents of the United States in 2014. Imagine a 50 percent cut in those numbers, even a one-third reduction and the impact that the reduction in remittances would have on the economy of Jamaica.  That reduction and subsequent negative impact can be extrapolated throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

For those who think that this Bill has no chance of becoming law, underestimate the power of protectionism and the white nationalist forces that occupy the White House.  Recall that anti-immigration was the precept of Donald Trump’s campaign – do not forget the infamous ride down the escalator at Trump Tower two years ago and the sounding call against immigrants.

The anti-immigrant sentiment spread by Trump stirred a connection between him – a multi-millionaire and poor, working class Americans. The call connected a heretofore un-charitable millionaire to persons who bought into the line that immigrants are taking their jobs, depleting the social safety net and committing all the crimes in America.

After a dreadful six months in office with no legislative victories, a daily barrage of negative media about Russian involvement in the 2016 elections and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, and complete chaos in the White House; the Raise Act comes at the perfect time to shift the focus from the failure of the past six months and give Trump’s core base of supporters red-meat to rally around. Do not be surprised at the support that this Act will receive – if you doubt my assertions, simply “Google” RAISE Act.

It is time for the immigrant community, particularly the Caribbean Immigrant Community and the governments of the Caribbean to organize to lobby against this Bill because its passage would devastate families and the Caribbean economy.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq. is a Jamaican-American attorney who practices immigration law in the United States; and Family, Criminal, International & Personal Injury Law in Florida.  She is a Mediator, Arbitrator and Special Magistrate in Broward County, Florida. [email protected]

South Florida Caribbean News

The SFLCN.com Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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