The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice and our member organizations strongly oppose President Trump’s proposed Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act. This legislation is a discriminatory policy and an affront to our values as a country built by immigrants.
The RAISE Act would replace the current permanent employment-visa framework with a skills-based system that severely limits those who can immigrate legally to the United States. It is estimated that the bill would cut legal immigration by 50 percent, primarily by removing opportunities for family reunification, and create a biased point system based on stereotypes and anti-immigrant sentiment, rather than sound economic policy.
President Trump could do far more to ensure fair wages for American workers by raising the minimum wage. To blame immigrants for the woes of the working-class is not only false, but irresponsible. Facts matter, and research shows that immigrants-- both documented and undocumented -- are an asset to the United States. While the president’s administration works to worsen the immigration policies, many experts predict that drastically curtailing immigration in this way would wreak havoc on our economy.
Today’s immigrants seeking refuge here are no different than those of generations past. Most come here poor and looking to better themselves economically. What they bring with them is courage and the ability to work hard to succeed in their new home. Our history has been to support and welcome all immigrants, regardless of their education or skill level. President Trump, along with Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, seem to have forgotten that. The legislation they proposed is based on prejudice rather than facts.
As they have done for generations, many immigrants come to reunite with families and loved ones. Once here, many are exploited and relegated to low-skill and low-wage jobs. Many start businesses and are known for jump-starting new economies. Many of our states, including New Jersey, would fail economically if not for the immigrant population that lives there.
Immigrants contribute with taxes, and they contribute to our social security funds, even though workers who are undocumented do not qualify for those benefits. In New Jersey, green card holders cannot qualify for Medicaid unless they have been a Legal Permanent Resident for more than five years. It does not matter that they have lawful status, that they contributed to the system, or that they need a helping hand. President Trump has cited false statistics to drive folks to believe that immigrants are a burden on our economy and society, but the facts show that immigrants are integral in boosting our economy and supporting our communities.
We must learn the lessons of our past. While our country has a proud history of welcoming refugees in need of protection and reuniting families, our government has also denied entry in the past to new arrivals viewed as being too sick, poor, or uneducated. Germans, Jews, Italians, and many others were subjected to tests that also gauged the "merits" of their entry. We should not return to the practice of dividing immigrant communities into those who are "deserving" of access to the American dream and those who are not, based on racist ideologies. Restricting entry to those with English-speaking proficiency insults our history by ignoring the contributions of non-English speaking immigrants who have helped this country prosper.
Immigrants have been unjustly blamed for the decline in real hourly wages. But when employers refuse to provide fair living wages, everyone suffers; families have less money to buy food, clothing, school supplies, and reinvest in their local communities. To provide real support to working families in this country, the Trump administration should encourage local business production, tell legislators to raise wages, and provide workers with the ability to bargain for their benefits.
The problem are not the immigrants, but a broken immigration system and insufficient protections for workers. Limiting the number of legal pathways to lawful entry has not lowered immigration rates. In fact, the rates increase every time we make it harder to enter legally. Families will continue to try to reunite regardless of what is put on paper. This will continue until we establish an efficient system that allows more people to apply and be given the opportunity to enter legally.