RAISE Act Immigration Reforms Touted As “Giving Americans A Raise”

Employers operating in the United States (U.S.) should evaluate potential workforce and implications of immigration law reforms proposed in the revised The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE Act) reintroduced in the Senate by co-sponsors Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue with the announced backing of President Donald Trump earlier today (August 2, 2017).

Applauding the RAISE ACT as his preferred vehicle for implementing the “merit based” Green Card system he promised would be implemented during his Presidential campaign, President Trump said the RAISE Act reforms will “give Americans a raise” by creating a “skills-based immigration system that seeks to make America more competitive, raise wages for American workers, and create jobs” while also ensuring that “newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American Dream.”

In pursuit of these goals, the RAISE Act would radically restructure U.S. rules to radically change the foreign workers and others eligible to qualify for work or other visas to enter the U.S., the procedures for their selection and other visa rules.

The centerpiece of these reforms are the RAISE Act’s proposal to replace the current permanent employment visa and lottery visa programs used to determine what foreign workers receive Green Cards to work in the U.S. with a “merit based system” under which a newly created “skills-based point system” would determine the workers eligible for selection to receive a work visa to work in the U.S. based upon listed “predictors of immigrant success and economic contribution.”  Under the skills-based point system created by the RAISE Act, selection for inclusion in the pool of workers eligible to work in the U.S. would rank foreign workers seeking visas based on a merit-based point system created under the legislation.

Beyond these specific reforms to the worker visa programs, other proposed reforms that tighten the eligibility rules and requirements for granting visas to noncitizen family members of U.S. citizens and foreign workers also can be expected to impact the recruitment and employment of foreign workers.  For this reason, employers and workers concerned with the recruitment of foreign labor to work in the United States generally will want to carefully evaluate all of these proposed reforms.

Proposed Direct Reforms To Work Visa Programs

The RAISE Act’s strategy for reforming the worker visa program focuses on the replacement of the current permanent employment visa and lottery programs with a newly created “skills-based points system” for granting work-eligible visas similar to systems used by Canada and Australia.  Concurrent with the deployment of the new skills-based point system, the RAISE Act provides for the elimination of the existing diversity visa lottery program, pursuant to which the U.S. currently grants via lottery selection 50,000 visas annually in a lottery to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, with no regard to the applicants’ skills.

As proposed under RAISE Act §5, the U.S. would issue up to 140,000 employment-based visas annually to applicants selected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services twice a year to receive an invitation to file full applications and undergo security vetting from the pool of applicants scoring the highest points the new skills-based points system created under the RAISE Act.

Under the RAISE Act reforms, a new skills-based points system would be used to prioritize applicants for visa eligibility based on the following “predictors of immigrant success and economic contribution:”

  • Education,
  • English-language ability,
  • High-paying job offers,
  • Age,
  • Record of extraordinary achievement, and
  • Entrepreneurial initiative.

The RAISE Act would require that an applicant score at least 30-points to eligible to qualify for inclusion in the pool of applicants eligible to be considered for possible selection to receive an employment-based visa or “Green Card.”  Subject to this floor, applicants would be selected for invitation to complete the application process and undergo a security check based on their score relative to other applicants.

Immigrant households arriving through the points system are not eligible for federal means tested benefits for a period of 5 years.

Section 5(e) of the RAISE Act requires an annual statistical report on the skills-based points system while Section 5(f) requires a quadrennial report to Congress recommending updates to the points system with the aim of improving the economy and enhancing working Americans’ wages.

Section 6 conditions naturalization on the sponsors of an immigrant fulfilling their obligation to reimburse the federal government for benefits used by the immigrant, as required under current law.

Proposed Changes To Immigration Preferences for Family Members of U.S. Citizens & Residents

Beyond the direct reforms to the worker visa systems, the RAISE Act’s proposed changes to the preferences for granting visas to family members of U.S. citizens and residents also are likely to impact the recruitment and retention of foreign workers to fill positions in the United States by both narrowing to spouses and children the list of family members eligible to qualify as “family-sponsored immigrants” and tightening the requirements for parents of citizens and residents to qualify for visitors visa.

As proposed, the RAISE Act would keep, but narrow the availability of visas for “family-sponsored immigrants.”  RAISE Act §4 would continue to allow preferences for spouses and minor children of U.S. residents but eliminate visa preferences for extended family and grown adult family members of U.S. residents.  Along with narrowing the individuals that can qualify for visa preferences as family-sponsored immigrants, the RAISE Act also caps the allowable number of “family-sponsored immigrants” eligible for admission per fiscal year to 88,000 reduced by the number of certain previously admitted family-sponsored immigrants not obtaining alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence status within a specified period remaining in the United States.

Along with this narrowing of the applicability of preferences for family-sponsored immigrants, the RAISE Act also proposes to create a temporary visa under which elderly parents of U.S. residents could come to the United States for a limited period of time conditional upon the fulfillment by the resident of certain conditions.  This newly created nonimmigrant classification for alien parents of adult United States Citizens would be conditional upon the sponsoring nonimmigrant child being at least 21 years old, legally resident in the U.S., responsible for the nonimmigrant parent’s support and for providing satisfactory proof that the sponsoring child maintains health insurance coverage for the parent at no cost to the parent. Furthermore, the parent receiving the visitor’s visa would not be authorized to be employed in the United States or eligible for any Federal, State, or local public benefit.

Proposed Cap on Offers Of Permanent Residency To Refugees

RAISE Act § 3 would caps the number of refugees granted permanent visas to the United States at 50,000 per year, in line with a 13-year average. It also requires the President to report the annual number of refugees admitted to the United States.

President, Sponsors Say Reforms Give U.S. Citizens “A Raise”

Joined by RAISE Act co-sponsors Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue for his Rose Garden announcement of support for enactment of the RAISE Act this morning, President Trump reaffirmed his campaign commitment to create “a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers” that “demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first” while helping “ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American Dream.

According to President Trump, “The RAISE Act — R-A-I-S-E — the RAISE Act will reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars … by changing the way the United States issues Green Cards to nationals from other countries” to protect low skilled U.S. workers from unfair foreign immigrant competition by replacing a “low-skilled system” with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card “that favors applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”

President Trump also touted provisions of the RAISE Act for preventing new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare and other benefits upon entry to the country as protecting U.S. taxpayers.

Implications For Employers

The reforms proposed by the RAISE Act, if enacted as proposed are likely to impact U.S. based employers in a multitude of ways including, but not limited to the obvious changes in the selection and availability of foreign workers for employment in the United States.

Obviously, the proposed changes to the processes for selection and qualification of non-citizens will impact both the nature of the workers eligible for employment, and the procedures and timing of their availability.   The emphasis on granting visas to higher skilled workers over those with lower skills likely will raise concerns for employers reliant upon lower skilled foreign labor.  While the new point system is touted as preferring the recruitment of higher skilled workers, it remains to be seen whether the system actually will meet the workforce needs already expressed by a host of hi-tech and other U.S. businesses concerned about immigration reform.  Meanwhile, employers recruiting foreign workers with family members also should anticipate that foreign workers may request or require assistance from their U.S. employer to fulfill newly imposed requirements that the worker provide health care coverage as a condition to his sponsorship of a parental visa or to address new government benefit eligibility exclusions included in the RAISE Act.

Beyond impacting the actual availability of foreign workers and their skill sets, it also is likely that the English-speaking and other preferences incorporated into the skills based point system proposed by the REACH Act also inevitably will necessitate some reconsideration if not actual reform of federal or state laws or regulations concerning nondiscrimination based on national origin, race or other civil rights laws that have been the basis of challenges to English language only workforce or other business rules. It remains to be seen how Congress and the Administration contemplates the new priority system will integrate with the employment and other federal and state laws that commonly are relied upon to protect foreign and English as a Second Language individuals against employment and other discrimination.

About The Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: Erisa & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for management work, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Ms. Stamer works with businesses and their management, employee benefit plans, governments and other organizations deal with all aspects of human resources and workforce, internal controls and regulatory compliance, change management and other performance and operations management and compliance. Her day-to-day work encompasses both labor and employment issues, as well as independent contractor, outsourcing, employee leasing, management services and other nontraditional service relationships. She supports her clients both on a real-time, “on demand” basis and with longer term basis to deal with all aspects for workforce and human resources management, including, recruitment, hiring, firing, compensation and benefits, promotion, discipline, compliance, trade secret and confidentiality, noncompetition, privacy and data security, safety, daily performance and operations management, emerging crises, strategic planning, process improvement and change management, investigations, defending litigation, audits, investigations or other enforcement challenges, government affairs and public policy.

Well-known for her extensive work with health, insurance, financial services, technology, energy, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, governmental and other highly regulated employers, her nearly 30 years’ of experience encompasses domestic and international businesses of all types and sizes.  A former lead consultant to the Government of Bolivia on its Pension Reform project, Vice Chair of Policy of the American Bar Association International Section Life Sciences Committee and an active in a host of migration reform and other cross-border workforce, pandemic and other healthcare, education, ethics, cyber crime policy reforms within and outside the United States throughout her career, Ms. Stamer also has extensive experience working with domestic and foreign businesses on a host of immigration, workforce, compensation, benefits, privacy, and other compliance and management challenges arising in connection with the management and use of ex-pat and other global workforces by U.S. and foreign businesses.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her thought leadership, experience and advocacy on these and other concerns by her service as a management consultant,  business coach and consultant and policy strategist as well through her leadership participation in professional and civic organizations such her involvement as the Vice Chair of the North Texas Healthcare Compliance Association; Executive Director of the Coalition on Responsible Health Policy and its PROJECT COPE: Coalition on Patient Empowerment; former Board President of the early childhood development intervention agency, The Richardson Development Center for Children; former Gulf Coast TEGE Council Exempt Organization Coordinator; a founding Board Member and past President of the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence; former board member and Vice President of the Managed Care Association; past Board Member and Board Compliance Committee Chair for the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas; a member and policy adviser to the National Physicians’ Council for Healthcare Policy; current Vice Chair of the ABA Tort & Insurance Practice Section Employee Benefits Committee; current Vice Chair of Policy for the Life Sciences Committee of the ABA International Section; Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section; ABA Real Property Probate and Trust (RPTE) Section former Employee Benefits Group Chair, immediate past RPTE Representative to ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, and Defined Contribution Committee Co-Chair, past Welfare Benefit Committee Chair and current Employee Benefits Group Fiduciary Responsibility Committee Co-Chair, Substantive and Group Committee member, Membership Committee member and RPTE Representative to the ABA Health Law Coordinating Council; past Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Committee; a former member of the Board of Directors, Treasurer, Member and Continuing Education Chair of the Southwest Benefits Association, the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and others.

Ms. Stamer also is a widely published author, highly popular lecturer, and serial symposia chair, who publishes and speaks extensively on human resources, labor and employment, employee benefits, compensation, occupational safety and health, and other leadership, performance, regulatory and operational risk management, public policy and community service concerns for the American Bar Association, ALI-ABA, American Health Lawyers, Society of Human Resources Professionals, the Southwest Benefits Association, the Society of Employee Benefits Administrators, the American Law Institute, Lexis-Nexis, Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), InsuranceThoughtLeaders.com, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Texas CEO Magazine, HealthLeaders, the HCCA, ISSA, HIMSS, Modern Healthcare, Managed Healthcare, Institute of Internal Auditors, Society of CPAs, Business Insurance, Employee Benefits News, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other symposia and publications. She also has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for human resources, employee benefit and other management focused publications of BNA, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com and many other prominent publications and speaks and conducts training for a broad range of professional organizations and for clients on the Advisory Boards of InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, and many other publications.

Want to know more? See here for details about the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, e-mail her here or telephone Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872.

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