Liberty Expose: The RAISE Act Lowers US Growth

Gage Skidmore  | Flickr Creative Commons

Gage Skidmore | Flickr Creative Commons

Two years after its original unveiling in 2017, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (AR), David Perdue (GA), and Josh Hawley (MO) are reintroducing the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act. The bill, which would seek to cut legal immigration by 50 percent, is being brought up once again to counter Jared Kushner’s attempt to increase temporary work visas for low and high skilled workers. For years, Congress has been divided on how to reform the country’s immigration laws. For ardent immigration hawks, the RAISE Act is seen as a necessity to protect American workers and jobs from non-citizens. While such a proposal may be popular to conservatives, especially to the President’s base, the bill will only prove to be more costly to the U.S. economy than it would be helpful.

But what exactly does the RAISE Act do in order to cut legal immigration by 50 percent? Overall, the bill would end the US diversity lottery in favor of a points-based skills system to only bring in highly educated and skilled immigrants. It would also cap refugees at 50,000 each year. tighten up restrictions on immigrants from bringing their families over to the United States, and solidify the e-verify system to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining employment. Proponents of the bill argue that the RAISE Act is necessary to keep American jobs open to American citizens, and to promote wage growth as they argue the influx of unskilled workers keep wages stagnant.

For many conservatives, this would be the ideal solution to immigration; but ultimately, would be self-defeating and would leave the country off worse in the long-term. As to the argument that the RAISE Act would allow wages to go up, this is true but only for the short-term. For the first few years, wages would go up because there is a shortage of workers and companies would probably have to raise their employee wages to keep them satisfied. However, in the long-term, the low supply of labor would cause shortages as the capital that immigrants provide society is now gone. Ultimately, the growth in wages is eliminated and stays at where it was before.

Take for example the Foxconn fiasco in South East Wisconsin. The Taiwan-based company promised to build a massive manufacturing center in Mount Pleasant in Wisconsin’s Racine County. Initially, the project was expected to bring in 13,000 jobs, but this number is expected to decrease because the site will be a smaller manufacturing plant than what was originally intended. No matter what, Foxconn is going to have a difficult time drawing in in thousands of people from the surrounding area to fill these jobs. Employers in Racine are already having a difficult time filling positions as the unemployment in the state is far below the national average at 2.9 percent. Because of this, the Foxconn will have to look to other states to find employees. This is a situation that would show how much the United States needs a steady supply of immigrants to come to the country to work, not fewer. If projects like Foxconn go down the drain after the construction of the company’s manufacturing site is completed, then the state would have squandered $4.1 billion for nothing.

Besides not improving wages in the long-term and keeping the labor supply low, the RAISE Act could weaken GDP growth. In order for an economy to remain healthy, it requires a steady stream of workers, either from newborns or immigrants. Because U.S. fertility rates still remain low, the only source of reliable workers comes from immigration. Indeed, according to the National Immigration Forum found that immigrants make up “a third to nearly a half of population growth for decades.” If we did not take in such a large number of immigrants each year, then the economy would be as slow as Europe and Japan.

Another issue I have with the RAISE Act and the strident anti-immigration group is with their argument that immigrants are breaking the fabric of the nation. But in the traditional sense, the United States is not a true nation by definition as it is not a society where people share common attitudes, values, and beliefs. Countries like those in Scandinavia are true nations because majority of its citizens fall under one ethnicity and one religion, compared to the United States where there is a wide variety of people with different backgrounds, homelands, and beliefs. We have always been a melting pot of different societies, even if the US has not been welcoming of others. It is our diversity that makes us among the strongest powers in the world, culturally, economically, and militarily. With a steady stream of immigration, we are able to keep our economy growing at a faster rate than those homogeneous societies and benefit from a diversity of opinion that leads to new discoveries and innovations.

Instead of passing the RAISE Act, conservatives should support making DACA permanent through the legislative process and increasing aid to Latin American countries to help stabilize them so people do not have to flee to the United States to live a better life. Children who were brought here by there parents should not be punished by making them go back to a land they never knew. Support for DACA among Republicans is high. As of 2017, 66 percent of Republicans approve a pathway to citizenship if they learn English and contribute to the economy. The Dreamers are a vital part of America’s future and should be allowed to fully participate in our society. The cost of throwing them to the wolves is too great. Trump’s move of striking down aid El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will only exasperate the conditions in these countries as there are less supplies to go around. To stabilize the situation on the border, we must first work on stabilizing our neighbors who have long suffered from corrupt regimes. Neither of these policies will act as a complete panacea, but they act as a suitable starting position.

With all this said, the RAISE Act would prove to be a net loss for the United States for decades to come if it does become law. Fortunately, because Congress is divided between parties, there is little chance that this comes to pass. It is quite possible that Congressional Republicans are bringing this law back up for discussion not only to counter Trump’s son-in-law, but also to bring back the discussion of immigration to rally the Republican base for the 2020 election, just like House Democrats are introducing a law to bring back Net Neutrality rules so it can lead to the topic in the campaign cycle. Republicans should pursue immigration reform, but this law is far from perfect and will only lead to the US down the path to stagnancy. As for now the current immigration system, while flawed and must be fixed, is still more viable than the alternative solution put forth by the immigration hawks in the GOP.