On August 2, 2017, President Donald Trump declared his support for immigration legislation sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) intended to significantly reduce the level of legal immigration to the United States. The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to cut the number of green cards issued for extended family members and refugees and make the immigration system more merit-based. While those who have supported President Trump’s calls to dramatically curb the American immigration system may embrace the bill, it represents a significant departure from recent decades and will face serious hurdles in Congress. Expected opposition from Democrats as well as some Republicans in the Senate make the bill’s prospects for passage in its current form slim, but even if the bill is not passed, its provisions could nevertheless set parameters for debate as other reform measures are considered.

Specifically, the RAISE Act would:

  • Establish a skills-based points system. The RAISE Act would replace the current employment-based immigrant visa system with a skills-based points system that would prioritize immigrants based on factors including education level, offered annual salary, extraordinary achievement, entrepreneurial investment, English language proficiency, and age. Applicants would be required to reach a 30-point threshold to be eligible for an employment-based immigrant visa and up to 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas would be issued annually to the highest scoring applicants.
  • Focus family-sponsored immigration on spouses and minor children. The RAISE Act would eliminate current family-based immigrant visa preference categories for extended and adult family members by defining an “immediate relative” as an immediate relative spouse and by defining a child as being younger than 18 years of age. Potential immigrants awaiting entry under family-based immigration categories eliminated by the RAISE Act would be grandfathered in if their entry into the United States is scheduled to occur within one year of the RAISE Act’s enactment.
  • Eliminate the Diversity Visa Program. The RAISE Act would eliminate the 50,000 immigrant visas currently allotted annually in a lottery to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
  • Limit the number of refugees admitted annually. The RAISE Act would cap the number of refugees granted immigrant visas to the United States at 50,000 per year.