In a recent editorial for the New York Times, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona pointedly attacked the RAISE Act – a bill proposed in the U.S. Senate to cut legal immigration in half and focus almost solely on skilled workers.
The senator recounts the story of Manuel Chaidez, a young man from his childhood who entered without documentation from Mexico and started working on his family’s farm. Flake writes that history “doesn’t much record the unglamorous and often excruciating work of moving sprinkler pipe, digging ditch, chopping hay or keeping a broken-down feed truck running for just one more year. Manuel did all of that . . . . Without such work there is no ranch. Without ranches, my town and towns like it falter. And so in my estimation, Manuel is just about the highest-value immigrant possible, and if we forget that, then we forget something elemental about America.” Other Republican senators, including Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, have offered legislation supporting immigrant labor, both skilled and unskilled.
However, as I have reported before in the NMM Immigration Blog, supporters of the RAISE Act view the situation very differently. The White House writes on its website that the RAISE Act is necessary because for “decades, low-skilled and unskilled immigration into the United States has surged, depressing wages and harming America’s most vulnerable citizens,” and “President Donald J. Trump supports the . . . Act to prioritize immigrants based on the skills they bring to our Nation while safeguarding the jobs of American workers.” The conservative magazine The National Review wrote last week that the RAISE Act has a positive national poll rating, and “is simply in line with what most Americans want.”
With competing proposals and ideas, this fall will likely be a turning point in national immigration laws and priorities. Not only will Congress vote on the RAISE Act, but it will also consider how to handle the more than 700,000 young people who have received temporary relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, as well as Trump’s budget proposal for billions of dollars for increased border security and a southern border wall.
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