Last week, Republican senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue co-sponsored the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act. The Trump-backed bill would aim to make job skills a priority for people to obtain legal permanent residency in the United States. Because this would certainly impact the technology industry, we’ve done our best to break down the facts and examine how this proposed bill would affect our everyday lives.
What’s wrong with the current system?
According to the official White House website, the issue stems from soaring rates of low-skilled or unskilled immigrants being given citizenship which, in turn, harms America’s most vulnerable citizens. It later reports that just 1 out of every 15 immigrants come to the United States because of their skills. On average, 1 million immigrants are accepted into the United States for legal permanent residency annually, and most of them are low or unskilled workers while more than 50 percent of all immigrant households receive welfare benefits, compared to only 30 percent of native households in the United States that receive welfare benefits.
What’s included in the new RAISE Act?
According the White House, the RAISE Act “puts American workers first” and mirrors immigration systems used by Canada and Australia. The proposed system would reward immigrants based on their individual merits (education, past achievements, English speaking ability, etc.) while prioritizing immediate family members of United States residents (spouses and children) but ends preferences for extended family members and adult children. The bill would cut annual legal immigration into the United States by 50% (500,000)
Why some people are for this bill?
Defenders of this proposed bill cite that this bill would provide a much needed boost to the unemployed, underemployed and employed Americans whose wages have been frozen for years. The White House reports that, since 1979, Americans with a high school diploma or less have seen their real hourly wages decline and American workers without a high school diploma have seen their hourly wages fall by 17%. By tightening the labor market, advocates argue that the bill would provide more Americans with jobs and that wages would rise (supply/demand).
Why people are against this bill?
As CNBC reported, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo argues that the policy will have an adverse effect on the technology industry because it could potentially make it harder for American companies to compete for talent. As we here at Louisville Geek can attest, recruiting and staffing in the technology industry is extremely difficult. In fact, it’s probably our most difficult challenge because as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, we’re looking for specific needs to fill at certain price points and a certain timeframe. Critics also argue that immigration officials are not qualified at determine who the best software engineers are to work at American companies.
Unlike the Senate’s latest effort to pass a health care bill, which was done under the budget reconciliation process and thus demanded only a 51-vote majority (or 50 in practical terms, given Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote), it would take 60 votes to break a Democratic filibuster and get the RAISE Act to an up-or-down vote. Because this is such a highly controversial bill, it’s extremely unlikely that the support would be enough to make it through the senate.