Trump has recently announced his support for the RAISE Act, a bill that will radically change the US immigration system. If this bill passes, skilled workers will be favoured over entire families seeking reintegration. Immigration would limit non-English speakers, halt family sponsorships, and discount less skilled workers.
This merit-based immigration system is inspired by Canada’s immigration policies, and Trump is adamant that replacing the current American legal immigration protocol with a merit-based system will increase national citizen wages and provide significant taxpayer savings.
Canada’s Merit Based Immigration System
Canada’s points-based immigration system is weighted on needed skills and educational aptitude. Points are awarded for language proficiency, age, education, and job offers.
Canada has implemented a non-immigrant visa for parents of citizens, viable for 10 years. This stipulation carries ineligibility for federal, provincial, and local benefits, and the sponsor is responsible for the maintenance of the parent. This allows families permanent residence status, while sponsors are fiscally responsible, as opposed to government welfare programs.
The United States currently accepts ten times as many immigrants as Canada. Canada does not utilize a diversity green card lottery as the US does. Eliminating the green card lottery results in 50,000 fewer approved immigrants, mirroring the more stringent points-based system Canada follows.
Canada currently accepts 20,000-50,000 refugees every year. While this policy still meets concerns from many critics, the RAISE Act would cap American refugee admittance to 50,000.
The RAISE Act uses Canada’s merit-based immigration system as a guideline, with significant revisions that tailor to economic issues and population pressures the US is facing.
What Can a Merit-Based Immigration System do for the United States?
The current US immigration system favours moving entire family members into the country regardless of age, education or financial stability. Under the current US immigration system, around one million foreign immigrants are granted legal permanent residence a year. The proposed RAISE Act could reduce that number of legal immigrants to around 500,000.
Green cards are offered through family sponsorship, job offers, humanitarian need, or the green-card lottery selection. Most green cards are offered through family sponsorships, and the current cap on family based immigration is 480,000. A points-based system could reduce this number to 88,000. A merit-based system would eliminate parents from immediate legibility for immigration, known as ‘chain migration’.
The RAISE Act proposes a non-immigrant visa that mirrors Canada’s family sponsor program, although the visa would be eligible for 5 years as opposed to 10. Neither the Canadian or American programs has visa quotas attached; however, it would effectively change American family immigration dynamics and economic burden.
Presently, the lowest percent of green cards are issued on an employment precedent. Following a merit-based system, points are weighted towards English proficiency, advanced degrees, natural average income, and high achievements that increase employability.
A points-based immigration system strategically selects immigrants that enhance the county’s economy more effectively in comparison to less direct government involvement. This system allows the government to categorize deable traits for immigrants, and weigh characteristics by assigning points. The overall goal of a points based system is to weed out financially unstable, less-educated immigrants who have a propensity to rely on welfare or compete for lower class working jobs.
Prospective immigrants are prioritized based on skills and economic need. A points-based system favours the immigrants who have higher educational training and work in industries that make higher net contributions.
There is no doubt adopting a merit-based system would be a historic change to American immigration dynamics, with intertwining moral issues that Americans are supporting in recent polls. Trump has repeatedly stated that progressing towards a merit-based immigration system protects workers, taxpayers, and the economy.
What other Countries Follow a Merit-Based System?
An immigration program that favours applicant with deable skills has been implemented by countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand half a century ago. While no one country selects immigrants exclusively through a points-based system, a merit based immigration system focuses on skills and education, as well as immigrants based on family connections and humanitarian reasons.
These countries realize that college-educated immigrants might perform under par to natives at the same skill level, and their respective legal immigration points systems have been adjusted to allow employers to prioritize immigrants who have passed a points threshold.
The Future of US Immigration
If the RAISE Act is passed, the American legal immigration structure would drastically change. The pros and cons of a merit based immigration system must be considered.
Immigration advocacy groups, such as Numbers USA and the Federation of Immigration Reform, praise reduced immigration efforts, supporting a new-age system that spurs economic growth through younger skilled workers. Economists claim a system based on skilled immigration will not likely affect wages on less-skilled native workers; however, significant scrutiny has been vocalized over native displacement to foreign skilled workers.
Trump is adamant that the RAISE Act will address the “compassion for struggling American families that deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first”. Regardless of administration politics, the immigration debate is essential dialogue occurring in America.
The bill is facing an uphill resistance in Congress, due to the sizable Democrats who outwardly deject passing the RAISE Act. However, with the White House currently working with Cotton and Perdue on legislation policies, a merit-based immigration movement that mirrors Canada seems increasingly realistic and is a good starting point for open discussions on immigration reform.