Friday, August 18, 2017

The RAISE Act

Written by  Linda A. Dominguez

Or how not to reform immigration laws of the US

On February 13th, 2017, two Republican Senators introduced Senate bill 354 – the “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act” or the RAISE Act – to the Senate, which referred it to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. It has not been voted on by the full Congress nor has it been sent to the White House for signing into law. So, nothing that follows is currently the law and anyone who says otherwise is just trying to frighten people. Senate Bill 354 is a proposal of what these two Republicans (and the current occupier of the White House) want to do to change the Immigration and Nationality Act to make it more restrictive.

 

The first thing that is proposed is doing away with the Diversity Visa (“DV”). The DV lottery is run by the Department of State and the purpose of this lottery is to allow people from countries that do not have large numbers of people coming to the US as permanent residents to have a way to become green card holders. As the name implies, it is a lottery and names are chosen randomly from the petitions submitted each year. A person who wins this lottery must enter the US as a permanent resident within the fiscal year that they won (before October 1st of that year). So, someone who wins the 2017 lottery, must file and have approved an application to become a permanent resident before October 1st, 2017. New petitions for DV lottery are filed beginning on October 1st of each year (DV 2018 petitions would be filed beginning on October 1st, 2017).

As far as employment-based visas are concerned, Senate Bill 354 focuses on those persons who have degrees in STEM fields, speak English fluently, and have money to invest in a business in the US. While the sponsors claim that they are not trying to limit immigrants to those of European ethnicity, it is difficult to see how it works otherwise. The “right” people that meet the requirements are mostly white, highly educated, and rich. Oh! And it does help if you have received the Nobel Prize or are an internationally recognized expert in your scientific field.

Senate Bill 354 states that it is limiting the number of refugees and asylees XX granted such status per fiscal year to 50,000. Currently, the INA provides for 50,000 per year, with additional visas available at the request of the White House on a humanitarian basis. Given the number of humanitarian crises occurring around the world, the White House generally asks that at least double that number be made available each year and the request is granted. The change is that there is no option to request additional visas for refugee or asylee status based on humanitarian needs. The cut off is “no more than 50,000” per year. Period.

For family-based immigration, Senate Bill 354 eliminates all brothers and sisters of US citizens as qualifying relatives, as well as the parents of US citizens. The only persons eligible to be sponsored by a US citizen or permanent resident are the spouses and minor children (under the age of 21 years) of that person. Also, the number of visas available is limited to 88,000 per year (currently the number of visas is 226,000). Finally, the parents of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old are only eligible for a “W” nonimmigrant visa, which does not give them the right to live permanently or work in the US. The parents are permitted to live in the US for five years, with additional periods of five years granted if the US citizen sponsor is still a resident of the US. The US citizen sponsoring their parents must provide proof that they have purchased health insurance for the time that their parents are in the US and proof that they have sufficient money to cover any expenses during the time that their parents are in the US. The sponsor cannot rely upon any money that their parents have to meet these requirements.

Again, Senate Bill 354 is currently in the Committee for the Judiciary and is not law. It is, however, an indication of the brutal ways in which the current administration wants to change the immigration laws to keep out those that are deemed “other.”

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