SEPT. 2, 2017

The RAISE Act Hurts the American Economy and Immigrants

If legal immigrants bought into the idea that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was only directed at illegal immigration through his policies that specifically targeted the undocumented in the U.S. -- that notion has just come to an end. It turns out that Trump’s bulls-eye on illegal immigrants was a safe target to exploit during his election campaign; but now that he is already president, he is ready to reveal to the country his true agenda on immigration. It turns out what Trump wanted all along, is a dramatic reduction of all immigrants, both legal and illegal. Immigrant activists were spot on when they’ve concluded early on that Trump was just waiting for the right moment to expand his xenophobic campaign to include reducing legal immigration.

The President fully endorsed in a press conference a controversial bill called the RAISE Act that was introduced by two Republican senators Tom Cotton (Ark) and David Perdue (Ga). The RAISE Act is the Republicans’ version of comprehensive reform; and the nuts and bolts of the bill are startling, overly ambitious, and aims to overhaul the entire legal immigration system that has been in place for more than 50 years. The Act has been called un-American, racist, immoral, counterproductive. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called it an “ethnic purity test that harkens to the worse in world history.”

Its ultimate goal is to reduce legal immigration from about 1 million to 500,000 by 2027. The massive reduction will come by eliminating sponsorship of extended family. Legal immigrants and U.S. citizens will only be allowed to sponsor into the country their spouse and children under 18, and elderly sick parents for caretaking purposes only. Siblings or children over 18 can no longer be sponsored into the U.S. This proposed change is major because most authorized immigrants are admitted to the U.S. based on family ties (about 65 percent) according to the Migration Policy Institute. Experts say ending the family ties mechanism to enter the U.S. will dramatically reduce the number of Asians and Hispanics. The majority of these two groups enter the U.S. via family ties green cards.

The second controversial feature of the RAISE Act that will also disproportionately hurt Asians and Hispanics is the implementation of a new points system for employment-based green cards. The system will consider education levels, age, future salary and prioritize English speakers. It is designed to favor highly educated, wealthier immigrants who are fluent in English and would fill mostly STEM jobs, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Economists believe this could have the unintended effect of a labor shortage, especially in lower wage jobs. It could also have the unintended effect of increasing illegal immigration. The National Immigration Forum already projects the country will face a work force gap of 7.5 million jobs by 2020.

Trump and the GOP believe the RAISE Act will defend American workers, their jobs, and the economy. Economists believe immigration is needed to sustain economic growth by working at jobs Americans do not want, continue current levels of consumer consumption, and add to tax revenues -- all of which are needed considering that the Baby Boomer workforce is coming to an end.  The RAISE Act will only hurt the American worker, American economy, and tear apart legal immigrant families that does nothing but encourage illegal immigration.

Statistics already show that legal and illegal immigration to the U.S. have been stable and flat for the last 15 years. When examining the features of the RAISE Act, it becomes clearer what the motivation of Trump and the GOP is -- to keep immigrants of color, specifically Asians and Hispanics, to a minimum, to ensure Republicans remain politically dominant for generations. Attaching the word “merit” to describe the new points system feigns impartiality especially when English fluency is a key requirement. Americans must see the RAISE Act for what it really is and reject its passage this year, the next, or as long as Trump remains president.


In Charlottesville Trump Made the Most Damaging Mistake in His Presidency

There is no reset button to press for President Donald Trump after the Charlottesville tragedy. His remark that “many” sides are to blame for inciting violence, lumping white nationalists, Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan in the same group as those protesting them has spurred harsh criticism like never before since Trump took office. The President tripled down from his original comment two days later in his worst ever press conference meltdown, saying there were "very fine people" protesting on both sides, once again suggesting a moral equivalency between the Nazis, the KKK (two of the country’s oldest known terrorist groups) and Americans protesting hate.

What Trump did will forever be a permanent stain on his presidency and haunt him for however long he remains president. His inability to be a healer of tension during a national crisis, inability to bring Americans together showed his priority of putting divisive politics over national unity. This is reckless leadership and in the long-term a real threat to our national security. The Charlottesville fiasco was a complete collapse of moral authority by the president that will further isolate him not only from Democrats and Independents, but politicians and Americans within his own party. It’s astounding that the president didn’t even find it necessary to take time off from his vacation to attend the funeral of Heather Hayer, who was killed by a white nationalist in Charlottesville. He missed that opportunity to close the increasingly wide racial gap exacerbated by Trump himself since his campaign for president. Instead, he opted to play partisan politics and cater to his base that includes white supremacists.

What perhaps is the most damaging development in the aftermath of Charlottesville is that a great segment of the country now believes the president is in fact a racist. His long history of racist comments, racist policies, could have been chalked up as extreme partisan politics. The verdict was inconclusive that his racist comments and policies translated to the president being a racist. But the Charlottesville incident is different. The Charlottesville incident lifted ambiguity about who the president is, a racist, at least in the eyes of too many Americans. Now this is problematic, dangerous to the cohesion of our country, and goes against American values. The perception, real or unreal, that Trump is a racist delegitimizes his authority to a large sector of Americans, and perhaps what Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz meant when he said that Trump was not his president, a sentiment that echoed throughout the nation shortly after Charlottesville.

 Senator Schatz has risen in national prominence as one of the most valiant and vocal leaders in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Schatz’s strong leadership and articulate discourse in mainstream media outlets reflect well the values and diversity of Hawaii and of a nation Americans dream of becoming.

How the country moves forward from Charlottesville is questionable. The rift in our country is far from politics as usual. Trump’s firing of Steve Bannon, who is seen as the puppeteer of alt right policies in the Trump administration, is not enough to calm the ire of Americans who hold the president himself responsible for his words and actions. Nazis and the KKK are in fact as great or a greater threat to the U.S. than international terrorists. Condemning them should have been simple, instinctual. These two groups are radicalized, networked, heavily armed, commit murder against minorities and favor a separate state divided along racial lines. They are enemies of the state that should never be welcomed by any leader of our country to be a part of his or her political base.

Republicans who joined Democrats in condemning these groups and called out Trump for his opaque repudiation should be applauded for not putting politics over country. More Republicans should make it very clear that racism is in direct counter to American values and morals. Should Trump continue to play an ambiguous game flirting with extreme racist groups that support his presidency, he is not deserving of Republicans’ support, even if the president belongs to the same political party.  Some of the largest corporations and unions also showed moral leadership by cutting ties with the Trump administration over this incident. Republicans must be open to doing even more should Trump continue to lead our country down a deeper hole. 

Even after Charlottesville, the shocking reality is that polls show Trump continues to have considerable support from his base with a majority of Republicans still backing the president. Americans cannot blame the president alone for our current state of racial tension. All Americans must look in the mirror, rethink how we possibly contribute to hate in our communities, and stop being enablers of this demagogue who clearly is capitalizing on the politics of hate in a way we’ve never seen a president do in modern American history. The signs cannot be more telling, more blinding and urgent that hate-based politics must stop before it’s too late.

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