Activists: Trump's Support for RAISE Immigration Bill Just a Distraction
Courtesy of Diego Lozano/Aliento

Activists: Trump's Support for RAISE Immigration Bill Just a Distraction

Donald Trump has had a lot going on recently — his son is being investigated, he's being investigated, Republican health care reform continues to fail, another staff member faced elimination this week on the White House version of The Apprentice.

But the president doesn't want you to think about any of that. Instead, he wants you to focus on an immigration bill that was proposed in February and has made little headway since. Doesn't that seem like a better use of time?

The RAISE Act, or Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, promises to rebalance the immigration system and in turn help raise wages. The bill, sponsored by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, proposes cutting immigration by 50 percent over the next decade.

Economists and activists, nationally and locally, say no thank you.

"This does nothing to solve the immigration problem," LUCHA-immigrant rights co-executive director Tomas Robles said.

The RAISE Act seeks to eliminate 50,000 visas from the lottery and limit refugees to 50,000. Essentially, Cotton's act proposes to cut back drastically on anyone coming into the country, even legally.

Robles said it's the job of nonprofits like LUCHA to challenge this.

"We have to continue to call it out for what it is — racist, xenophobic, and nativist agenda," Robles said.

The New American Economy, an action fund that collects data from more than 500 political and business leaders who support immigration reform, calculated that immigrants make up 14.5 percent of the metro Phoenix area. 

On Monday, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton met with New American Economy to discuss the economic impact of more than 600,000 immigrant residents in the city.

"Our diverse population, which has been mostly due to immigrants, has been our greatest strength for our city," Stanton said.

Of those residents, 72.5 percent of them are in the 25 to 64 "working age" bracket and collectively earned $15.7 billion in household income. Statewide, that number grows to $21.4 billion in household income and $5.4 billion paid in taxes, according to a 2014 data set.

The same can be seen nationwide. For this reason, 1,470 economists from across the country and across the aisle penned a letter to Trump and congressional leaders to consider immigration reform carefully.

"With the proper and necessary safeguards in place, immigration represents an opportunity rather than a threat to our economy and to American workers," they wrote.

Stanton couldn't agree more.

He said Phoenix's economy has diversified and expanded thanks to immigrant residents and their relationships, especially those from Mexico which is a market Stanton hopes to continue to grow.

"That’s really a recipe for economic success if we can leverage that," he said.

Stanton especially wants to continue encouraging immigrant workers with STEM skills, many of whom enter through H-1B programs, and the RAISE Act could jeopardize that.

"It goes to the fundamental issue, for Phoenix, for Arizona, and nationally: Has immigration been good for this country?" he said. "If you look at the facts, the economic facts, this has been good for the economy."

The RAISE Act and those who are "just trying to score quick political points" by supporting it are going in the wrong direction for immigration reform, Stanton said.

Planned Parenthood Campaign Director Raquel Teran agrees.

"The vast majority American support common-sense immigration, and this is no common-sense immigration reform," she said. "Period."

Socially, this act threatens to separate families and harm those under DACA or the Dream Act, Teran said. However, the general lack of support for the RAISE Act means it's not time to panic.

"This is Trump being Trump," Teran said. "It’s not going to work. Just like health care didn’t work. He cannot bully his way around this, just like he couldn’t bully health care into working.”

Instead, immigration resources, like LUCHA, are remaining calm, educated, and focused, Robles said.

“I think he's just trying to use it as a distraction from the scandals, like the revolving door in his administration and just the general lack of anything positive coming out of his administration," Robles said.

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