Finally, an immigration reform bill that tackles family migration


An immigration reform bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this month. Normally, that would be an event with about as much news value as the sun rising in the east.

But there is something different about the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.). The bill actually lays down some clear public interest objectives for U.S. immigration policy and recognizes the American people as the primary stakeholders in their nation’s immigration policy.

{mosads}For decades, U.S. immigration policy has had no definable public interest goal. What differentiates the RAISE Act is that it tilts the immigration system toward a selection process that better balances immediate family-based immigration and employment-based immigration.


Immigrants selected for their job skills currently comprise only about 6 percent of the current immigrant flow. Significantly reducing overall immigration and eliminating preferences for extended family members would ensure that those selected to come to the U.S. would be more likely to succeed, and would complement, rather than compete with, American workers.

The RAISE Act reflects the recommendations of a bipartisan commission that reviewed every aspect of U.S. immigration policy. That commission, chaired by the late civil rights leader and Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan, issued its final report 20 years ago. The commission’s blueprint for immigration reform was endorsed by President Bill Clinton and by congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle.

The core recommendations of the Jordan Commission included ending extended family chain migration and shifting the selection criteria to favor people who possess skills that are most beneficial to the country.

Among its key provisions, the RAISE Act would eliminate all immigration entitlements outside of the nuclear family (spouse and minor children) of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, ending the long and ever-growing list of relatives who are now eligible to come here, regardless of their likelihood to succeed in this country. 

Elderly dependent parents of U.S. citizens would still be permitted to come to the United States on temporary visas, but sponsors would be required to guarantee support and health insurance.

Under the RAISE Act, the 1960s concept of family chain migration — a form of codified nepotism — would be ended in a way that is not only beneficial to the nation, but also to the integrity of the immigration process.

Other relatives of green card holders and U.S. citizens, who once constituted a significant portion of the immigrant flow, would be free to compete on their own for entry. By eliminating these needless preference categories that contain the seeds of their own growth, experts say that we will be able to reach the Jordan Commission’s target of 550,000 immigrants a year within a decade — a level that would still be at the high end of historic norms.

American workers who have lost job opportunities and suffered wage erosion as a result of decades of irrational immigration policies would be the biggest beneficiaries of this legislation. For the first time in generations, immigration would be treated like every other public policy: one that maximizes the public good, while minimizing the harm to workers and taxpayers.

Other recent attempts to enact immigration reform have been centered on granting amnesty to millions of people who broke the law and making our already dysfunctional immigration process even bigger (and, likely, more dysfunctional). Not surprisingly, those efforts were rejected by the American people, who recognized that almost nothing in those bills protected or promoted their core interests.

The decline of the American middle class and immigration were the two issues that dominated this last election cycle. The RAISE Act responsibly addresses both of those concerns almost precisely as recommended by the bipartisan Jordan Commission in 1997. That constitutes not only real news, but real reform of our immigration policy.

Dan Stein is president of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bill Clinton Chain migration Demography Federation for American Immigration Reform Immigration Immigration News Immigration reduction in the United States Immigration reform Population Tom Cotton
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