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Immigration Law

Expert: GOP 'Solutions' Will Make Our Immigration Problems Worse

Prof. Stephen W. Yale-Loehr and Aaron El Sabrout, USA Today, Sept. 14, 2014 - "The U.S. immigration system is at an important crossroads.

The Trump administration recently announced that in sixDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which temporarily protects some 800,000 undocumented young people brought to the United States as children. That gives Congress an opportunity to not only help DACA participants, but to look at the big picture and ask ourselves fundamental questions. They start with "Who should we admit to the U.S.?" "how many people," and "what kinds?"

Our current immigration system admits slightly over a million new permanent residents every year. In 2015, about two-thirds were close relatives of U.S. citizens or green-card holders (immigrants who are permanent legal residents). Another 140,000 were selected based on economic characteristics. We also admitted 50,000 people through a diversity visa lottery, and 140,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. In general, our emphasis has been on keeping families together, while also working toward economic development.

Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia have a plan, endorsed by President Trump, to change that mix. But their RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act, like DACA repeal, is an overly simplistic solution to a complex issue. Over the next decade, the RAISE Act would reduce legal immigration by half. Among other things, it would allow green cards for spouses and minor children but eliminate them for parents and siblings of U.S. citizens. It would also reduce green cards for other family-based immigrants to just 88,000 a year.

This conflicts deeply with our immigration tradition, which emphasizes keeping families together. Under the RAISE Act, the only chance for siblings or parents of U.S. citizens to immigrate would be through the bill’s new points system, which is so restrictive most Americans would not qualify. The bill would essentially guarantee that many family members of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents would never get green cards.

For example, consider Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Jerry came to the United States as a family-based immigrant when he was 9 years old. Jerry only knew one English word, “shoe,” when he arrived. He struggled with English. His mother made a game of it, opening the dictionary to a new page every day. By high school Jerry was in Advanced Placement English. How many future Jerry Yangs would be barred from immigrating under the RAISE Act?

More problematically, the RAISE Act would not achieve its stated goals of improving the American economy and creating jobs. A study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the RAISE Act would cut U.S. GDP growth by 2% and lead to a loss of more than 4 million jobs by 2040.

Stemming the flow of low-income immigrant labor will not benefit America. Economists generally agree that immigration does not sway wages very much. A 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that that the long-term impact of immigration on the wages and employment of native-born workers overall is very small. Moreover, as the current job shortages in farmworkers and old-age and disability care workers show, it’s nearly impossible to get Americans to take some low-wage jobs that immigrants often perform. In fact, points-based systems that prioritize educated, high-earning immigrants may increase the demand for illegal immigration, as low-wage job markets still have to be filled.

As far as Trump, Cotton and Perdue are concerned, the United States should only admit immigrants who are wealthy, speak English and have science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. But they fail to address crucial questions. Should the number of immigrants vary by year, depending on the economy? What do we do with the estimated 11 million undocumented people who are here, working and paying taxes? How do we fill existing shortages in certain sectors of the economy? We must resolve these questions if we want an intelligent, coherent and humane immigration system.

The clock is ticking. Let’s hope Congress comes up with answers in the next six months."

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr is Professor of Immigration Law Practice at Cornell Law School. Aaron El Sabrout is a second year law student at Cornell Law School. Follow Yale-Loehr on Twitter: @syaleloehr