HAWAII'S ONLY WEEKLY FILIPINO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER
SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
SEPT. 2, 2017

COVER STORY

COVER STORY

Trump Wants ...(cont.)

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Critics say the points system is flawed and favors highly educated, wealthy, young adults, English-speaking immigrants. If an immigrant is just lacking any one of these preferred areas, that immigrant could be denied entry under this rigid points system. As an example, if you’re an advanced polymer manufacturing company in Ohio and you want to hire an engineer. Your new hire has a PhD in polymers from a U.S. university (13 points) and you’re offering him 400 percent of median wages (13 points). But he’s 53 (zero points) and his English is only about average for foreigners (zero points).

At 26 points, this candidate is ineligible for a visa despite being an asset for the country.

Others say requiring English-speaking applicants is built-in racism. It gives a leg-up to certain countries predominantly white like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and eventually will change the immigrant pool that is mostly Asian and Hispanic today. It also discriminates by economic class and excludes potential immigrants who cannot afford to pursue higher education to learn English in their home country.

Many originally poor entrepreneurial immigrants who have become successful in the U.S. learned English after arriving in the U.S.  Hundreds of thousands of these immigrants would have all been denied entry if the RAISE Act was the law of the land 20, 30, 50 years ago. And their descendants who have become professionals, doctors, scientists, educators, engineers would have been in other countries.

The irony is that under this system, even Friedrich Trump, the president’s grandfather, would likely have been denied entry into the U.S. He was a barber’s apprentice from Bavaria who spoke very little English.

Impact on Jobs and the Economy

One of the Republican votes that Trump would need is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who came out against the RAISE Act. "If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state's economy which relies on this immigrant workforce," said Graham. He noted that agriculture and tourism are two of the largest industries in the state, and that they would see the biggest decrease in immigrant workers.

Some business leaders believe the RAISE Act will do the opposite of what Trump says the Act is intended to do, help the American economy and workers.

“Dramatically reducing overall immigration levels won’t raise the standard of living for Americans,” said Randy Johnson, the senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “In fact, it will likely accomplish the opposite, making it harder for businesses, communities and our overall economy to grow, prosper and create jobs for American workers.”

In addition to Democrats in Congress, the RAISE Act is likely to face resistance from moderate pro-business Republicans in states with large immigrant populations.

Some experts believe the points system would also have the unintended effect of a labor shortage. The system is designed to allow only highly educated immigrants who are earning incomes way above the median income. This would leave unfilled many lower wage jobs that Americans do not want, especially in agriculture.

Over 70 percent of crop workers are foreign born and nearly half of farmhands are not legally authorized to work in the U.S., according to the USDA.

The proposed legal immigration points system that favors the highly educated would only exacerbate the problem. Farms rely on immigrants because Americans have shied away from grueling agricultural work. Studies show that paying higher wages are not luring Americans into farm work, even in a bad economy.

"It goes beyond matters of income and wages, said Will Rodger, director of policy communications, American Farm Bureau. "It is typical for farmers and growers to pay $1-3 over minimum wage." A farm labor report  from the National Agricultural Statistics Service found that the current average wage for farm jobs is $12.75 per hour. And in some states like California and Arizona, pay is as high as $16-17. Americans do not take farm jobs. In 2011 when unemployment was over 10 percent in North Carolina and almost 500,000 people were without jobs, the North Carolina Growers Association still could not recruit native workers. Of the 6500 available jobs at the time, only 268 Americans applied and just seven of the 245 people who had been offered jobs completed the growing season, according to a report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan pro-immigration reform group, and the Center for Global Development.

"We have documented cases where farmers have lost entire crops, because they simply could not find the people to do the work," said Rodger Martin, director of food system policy, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

The National Immigration Forum said the country is already projected to face a work force gap of 7.5 million jobs by 2020. “Cutting legal immigration for the sake of cutting immigration would cause irreparable harm to the American worker and their family,” said Ali Noorani, the group’s executive director.

With the Baby Boomer workforce coming to an end, economists believe immigration is needed to sustain economic growth.

Statistics show that legal immigration, even without any changes, has already been stable and flat for the last 15 years. The same is true of illegal immigration that has been stable and relatively low.

It’s argued that the RAISE Act’s rigid point system and elimination of extended family ties could in fact increase illegal migration while decreasing legal immigration.

Fate of the RAISE Act

The RAISE Act would need 60 votes to stop a Democratic filibuster. Currently the Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate, meaning 8 Democrats or independents would have to break ranks for it to be passed. The likelihood is the fate of the RAISE Act will come after next year’s midterm elections. Should Republicans win enough seats for a supermajority (60 plus) seats, the RAISE Act could become the law of the land and immigration as it stands today, will undergo massive changes.

Immigrants and Americans who understand the importance of legal immigration should know what is at stake in next year’s midterm election. It will be the most important midterm election ever for immigrant communities. The RAISE Act is a partisan Republican legislation and reveals what this party would want in immigration reform. All the cards are now on the table for Americans to see. Targeting illegal immigrants was just a part of the Republican agenda; the other and most damaging part Americans now know through the RAISE Act is that Republicans want legal immigration slashed by 50 percent, favoring rich, highly educated, English speaking immigrants.

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called the RAISE Act an “ethnic purity test that harkens to the worst in world history.”

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