Immigrant worker
August 3, 2017

What You Need to Know about Trump’s Immigration Bill

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Once again President Trump is causing a stir. This time it’s not because of something he tweeted, but because he’s pledging his support of a new bill called the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act that is being proposed by two conservative Senators. While at a rally in Ohio last week he called the proposed bill “a new immigration system for America."

However, the bill proposed by Senator’s Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) seems to focus less on permitting immigration and more on limiting it. If passed, the bill would dramatically change the current immigration laws and would only permit roughly half of the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter the country today.

According to President Trump’s top policy aid, Stephen Miller, the proposed measure would be “the largest proposed reform to our immigration system in half a century.” The Associated Press reports the Trump Administration believes too few immigrants, only 1 in 5, come the U.S. possessing skills that make them a valuable addition to the work force.

“Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits,” President Trump says. “It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families -- including immigrant families -- enter the middle class.” 

Trump says the current immigration system “has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.” However, the RAISE Act is likely to negatively impact multiple sectors of the agriculture industry.

According to the American Dairy Coalition CEO, Laurie Fischer, there are members of Congress who believe all undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. should be deported.

“They think that if American business owners paid higher wages, they would find domestic workers to take these labor intense jobs,” she says. “Of course, we know this is false.”

Farmers and ranchers rely on immigrant labor to feed the world.

“It’s reported that undocumented immigrants make up about half the workforce in the U.S.,” says Jeff Burton, of Burton Strategy Group and American Dairy Coalition (ADC) lobbyist. “The result has been disastrous for dairies, feedlots, farms, meatpacking plants, etc. Sustaining their current productivity – especially in states where unemployment is less than half the national unemployment rate is already hard enough.”

Fortunately for farmers, Burton says the bill is unlikely to ever pass the Senate.

“Currently, there would be roughly 30 GOP votes for this legislation and zero democrats,” he says. “Many more senators support expanding legal immigration than these GOP hardliners.”

Fischer adds that farmers should keep in mind that “the most viable agricultural path to ensure a reliable workforce is through guest worker legislation.” 

Bottom Line

  • Unlikely to pass
  • Replaces current work visa framework with a skills-based system
  • Gives priority to spouses and minor children of U.S. residents but ends preference for extended family members and adult children.
  • Limits permanent resident status for refugees to 50,000 a year