John Colson: RAISE Act — deceptive, harmful and useless | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: RAISE Act — deceptive, harmful and useless

John Colson
Hit & Run

Immigration.

It's not the easiest issue to wrap your head around, to be sure.

And now our president, "He Who Shall Not Be Named," and his Republican cohort in Congress are looking for ways to make it even harder to understand, discuss or otherwise consider.

A new legislative proposal, known as the RAISE Act (for Reform American Immigration for Strong Employment), put together by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Georgia Sen. David Purdue, both Republicans, would slash legal immigration by about half, mainly by prohibiting immigration solely on the basis of family relationships, while favoring immigrants with advanced college degrees, good English speaking skills, an attractive work history and other attributes.

Definitely not favored are the kind of immigrants who have been moving to Colorado for decades, enlivening our communities and filling jobs that many native-born Americans seem uninterested in.

The New York Times on Monday called it a "senseless immigration proposal," and immigration activists around the county have condemned it for its likely effect of brutally ripping families apart and doing very little to actually help create more jobs for U.S.-born, mostly white workers.

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The bill clearly is aimed at fulfilling the president's promise to roughly 35 percent of the voting population that put him in office — white supremacists, members of the "alt-right" and other reactionary types who have long complained that they are being denied access to the American Dream because of immigrants, despite the fact that studies have shown the exact opposite.

According to the NYT, the federal government currently issues about 1 million "green cards," or permits that allow a foreigner to live and work in the U.S.

About 140,000 such permits, the NYT reported, are issued based on job skills.

The RAISE Act would slash the total number of green cards issued annually by 41 percent in the first year and by 50 percent in the 10th year, according to analyses of the legislation — and most of the cuts would be applied to family-based immigration applications.

It also would place a cap on the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. every year, and eliminate a program that offers green cards via a lottery system to certain nations that do not typically send many immigrants our way.

I got to thinking, if this bill becomes law (as seems likely), how would it affect things here in the Roaring Fork Valley, where immigrants of many stripes and nations of origins have been showing up for decades, eager for jobs in our relatively affluent communities?

Well, I can tell you for certain that it would not make our immigrant neighbors feel any more comfortable or secure — not that they have been feeling that way anyway since the 2016 election.

And if the bill does succeed in making immigrants so uncomfortable that they simply pick up and head back to their countries of origin (which, undoubtedly, is the goal of Senators Cotton and Purdue), what would that do to our local workforce?

Of course, there are no hard and fast numbers to answer such questions, but simple common sense can fill in some of the blanks.

For instance, the townhouse complex where I live is served by a local landscaping company made up almost entirely of immigrants from Mexico.

I don't know how many have green cards — don't care, and have never asked.

But if some or all are here illegally, you can bet they'll be looking over their shoulders for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and thinking hard about whether it's time to head somewhere that is less fearful for them and their families.

In fact, even those who do have green cards might have similar thoughts, since no one wants to live and work where they are not wanted.

But we want them to stay.

They do a great job of landscaping, they are friendly and knowledgeable about everything from lawns to shrubs to trees, and they put their backs and their ingenuity into the performance of their duties.

And, unlike some white landscapers I have encountered over the years, they do not complain about their lot in life or look around for more lucrative ways to make money, such as getting a real estate license or trying to start up a company they can sell to investors for big bucks some time down the line.

Put another way, they do not seem to have a chip on their collective shoulders about anything, and appear genuinely happy to be working and earning a good living.

So, if any sizable percentage of these people suddenly felt it was in their best interests to move away, whether to a place in the U.S. where they could more easily disappear into the crowd or back across some border or another to the home they left to come here, we would be the losers in more ways than we could count.

That's because our immigrant neighbors have become important parts of the social and economic fabric here. They have become our friends and neighbors, as well as the smiling faces of store employees or municipal worker or secretaries or teachers, to name but a few places.

And the plain fact is that studies have shown that halting immigration does not boost the job market for "American" workers; it just makes it more difficult for employers to fill jobs with qualified people willing to work hard.

And about a third of those admitted to reunite families have had college degrees anyway, according to news stories.

So what is the damned point?

I'll tell you what the point is — it's to intimidate non-white immigrants, and to flatter and deceive the Republican base about real immigration facts and figures in order to maintain discipline among the troops.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.

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