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Great Seal of the United States
Full titleReforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act
Introduced in115th United States Congress
Introduced onFebruary 13, 2017
Sponsored byTom Cotton and David Perdue
Legislative history

The RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act is a bill introduced in the United States Senate in 2017. Co-sponsored by Republican senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, the bill seeks to reduce levels of legal immigration to the United States by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued. The bill would also dramatically reduce family-based immigration pathways; impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year; end the visa diversity lottery; and eliminate the current demand-driven model of employment-based immigration and replace it with a points system. The bill received the support of President Donald Trump, who promoted a revised version of the bill in August 2017, and was opposed by Democrats, immigrant rights groups, and some Republicans.

The 2017 bill did not receive a vote in the Senate, although a similar immigration bill[1] supported by Trump was defeated in 2018 on a 39–60 vote. In 2019, Cotton, Perdue, and other Republicans re-introduced the RAISE Act bill.


The bill is co-sponsored by Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, who introduced the bill to the Senate on February 13, 2017, as S. 354.[2][3][4] The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.[3]

On August 2, 2017, Cotton introduced a revised version of the bill, designated S. 1720; this bill was also referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.[5] President Donald Trump, along with Cotton and Perdue, announced it at the White House.[6] Within the Trump White House, Trump advisers Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon promoted and helped shape the bill. The bill has not attracted any additional co-sponsors.[7]

The 2017 bill did not receive a vote in the Senate. A separate bill to restrict legal immigration, supported by Trump, Cotton, and Purdue, was defeated in the Senate by a 39–60 vote. In 2019, Cotton, Perdue, and other Republicans re-introduced the RAISE Act legislation.[8]

Provisions and analysis[edit]

The bill would cut legal immigration by half, reducing the number of green cards from more than 1 million to about 500,000.[4] The bill would also remove pathways for siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to apply for permanent lawful residency status in the U.S., limiting the family path to spouses and minor children.[9] The bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year and would end the visa diversity lottery.[4]

In promoting the legislation, Trump administration officials contend that the bill would increase economic growth and increase wages.[10][11][12] This contention was challenged by economists,[11] who "overwhelmingly predict" that cuts in immigration would have a negative impact on GDP growth.[12] In April 2017, a group of more than 1,400 economists, with views ranging across the political spectrum, sent an open letter to Trump noting the "near universal agreement" on "the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring" and urging him not to seek immigration cuts.[12] The Penn Wharton Budget Model projects that the RAISE Act would increase per-capita GDP by 0.02 percent in the first decade, before falling in the long run by 2040.[13] Cato Institute immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh said that the legislation "would do nothing to boost skilled immigration and it will only increase the proportion of employment-based green cards by cutting other green cards. Saying otherwise is grossly deceptive marketing."[4]

The "only evidence that the administration has cited as justifying its proposals" is the work of economist George Borjas,[14] who has defended the bill, arguing that it "makes sense" and that "low-skill immigration, which would likely suffer the largest cuts in the proposed bill, imposes costs on taxpayers and it imposes costs on low-skill workers already here."[15] Other economists have sharply contested Borjas's conclusions; economist Giovanni Peri stated that "The average American worker is more likely to lose than to gain from immigration restrictions" and "most studies put the negative impact on low-skilled wages closer to zero,"[14] and Michael Clemens argues that Borjas's position is based on a study with critical flaws.[16][17]

Support and opposition[edit]

The bill and Trump's support for it was hailed by groups favoring restrictive immigration policies, such as NumbersUSA[4] and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.[18][19] CNBC journalist John Harwood viewed the bill as an appeal to Trump's anti-immigration base of Republican voters.[20]

The bill is opposed by Democrats as well as some Republicans.[9] Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said that "Trump wants to tear apart communities and punish immigrant families that are making valuable contributions to our economy."[9] Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called the bill "nothing but a series of nativist talking points and regurgitated campaign rhetoric that completely fails to move our nation forward toward real reform."[4] Seven of the eight Senators in the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" (four Democrats and four Republicans who co-sponsored an unsuccessful immigration-reform bill in 2013) denounced the bill.[21] Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, a member of the Gang of Eight, said the proposal would be "devastating" to South Carolina's economy.[22] The eighth member of the Gang of Eight, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, said that he had "a big difference of opinion with this bill is that it sets an arbitrary cap on the number of people that are able to come through with a green card."[23]

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and immigrant rights groups both condemned the legislation.[4] The National Immigration Law Center called the bill "cruel and un-American" and issued a statement saying that it would "devastate families, eliminating the traditional and long-accepted means by which family members such as grandparents, mothers, fathers and siblings are able to reunite with their families who have emigrated to the United States."[19] The technology industry immigration-policy advocacy group FWD.us said the bill, if enacted, "would severely harm the economy and actually depress wages for Americans."[19] The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and NAFSA: Association of International Educators also oppose the bill, describing it as flawed and a step backward.[19] The Anti-Defamation League also opposed the legislation, calling it "cruel, anti-family and un-American."[24]

Full details of the points system[edit]

In addition to substantially reducing legal immigration to the United States, and dramatically reducing family-based immigration, the bill would also replace the current employment-based U.S. immigration system with a rigid points system, which would mark a departure from the current U.S. demand-driven model of employment-based immigration.[25] Under the legislation, a maximum of 140,000 points-based immigrant visas would be issued per fiscal year, with spouses and minor children of the principal applicant being counted against the 140,000 cap.[25]

The revised version of the bill (S. 1720) provided that a person who accrued 30 points under the following allocation scheme would be eligible to submit an application.[5]

Worldwide Cap of 140,000 for each fiscal year (including spouses and children)
Point Allocation Age (10 points maximum)
Between 0 and 17 May not submit an application
Between 18 and 21 6 points
Between 22 and 25 8 points
Between 26 and 30 10 points
Between 31 and 35 8 points
Between 36 and 40 6 points
Between 41 and 45 4 points
Between 46 and 50 2 points
51 or older 0 points
Point Allocation Formal education (13 points maximum)
U.S. or Foreign High School Degree 1 point
Foreign bachelor's degree 5 points
U.S. Bachelor's Degree 6 points
Foreign master's degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) 7 points
U.S. STEM Master's Degree 8 points
Foreign Professional Degree or Doctoral STEM 10 points
U.S. Professional Degree or Doctoral STEM 13 points
Point Allocation English language proficiency (12 points maximum)
1st – 5th deciles 0 points
6th – 7th deciles 6 points
8th decile 10 points
9th decile 11 points
10th decile 12 points
Point Allocation Extraordinary achievement (40 points maximum)
Nobel Laureate or comparable recognition 25 points
Individual Olympic medal or first place in a comparable international sporting event 15 points
Point Allocation Job offer/highly compensated employment (13 points maximum)
Annual salary offered is at least 150% but less than 200% of the median household income in the state of employment 5 points
Annual salary offered is at least 200% but less than 300% of the median household income in the state of employment 8 points
Annual salary offered is at least 300% of the median household income in the state of employment 13 points
Point Allocation Investment and active management of new enterprise (12 points maximum)
Investment of at least $1.35 million but less than $1.8 million in a U.S. New Commercial Enterprise (NCE); maintain the investment for three years and play active role in managing the NCE as primary occupation 6 points
Investment of at least $1.8 million in a U.S. NCE; maintain the investment for three years and play active role in managing the NCE as primary occupation 12 points
Point Allocation Valid (pre-existing) offer of admission under family preference category 2 points


  1. ^ "S.Amdt. 1959". Congress.gov. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  2. ^ "Cotton and Perdue Introduce the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act" (Press release). Office of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton. August 2, 2017.
  3. ^ a b S.354 - RAISE Act, 115th Congress (2017-2018), Congress.gov.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Nakamura, David (2017-08-02). "Trump, GOP senators introduce bill to slash legal immigration levels". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  5. ^ a b "S.1720". Congress.gov. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  6. ^ Peter Baker, Trump Supports Plan to Cut Legal Immigration by Half, New York Times (August 2, 2017).
  7. ^ "GOP Plan to Slash Legal Immigration Wins Trump's Support". Associated Press. August 2, 2017. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017.
  8. ^ Alexander Bolton, GOP senators introduce bill to reduce legal immigration, The Hill (April 10, 2019).
  9. ^ a b c Peter Baker, Trump Supports Plan to Cut Legal Immigration by Half, New York Times (August 2, 2017): "In throwing his weight behind a bill, Mr. Trump added one more long-odds priority to a legislative agenda already packed with them."
  10. ^ Timothy Noah & Marianne Levine, Will the immigration bill boost economic growth?, Politico (August 2, 2017).
  11. ^ a b Patti Domm, Trump supports immigration bill that could have negative impact on his own agenda, CNBC (August 2,017).
  12. ^ a b c Heather Long, It's a 'grave mistake' for Trump to cut legal immigration in half, Washington Post (August 2, 2017).
  13. ^ White, Martha C. (August 15, 2017). "Trump's immigration plan could lead to almost 5 million lost jobs". NBC News. Retrieved August 16, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Binyamin Appelbaum, Fewer Immigrants Mean More Jobs? Not So, Economists Say, New York Times (August 3, 2017).
  15. ^ George J. Borjas, Why Trump’s New Immigration Bill Makes Sense, Politico (August 4, 2017).
  16. ^ Michael Clemens, There's no evidence that immigrants hurt any American workers: The debate over the Mariel boatlift, a crucial immigration case study, explained, Vox (August 3, 2017).
  17. ^ Michael Clemens, What the Mariel Boatlift of Cuban Refugees Can Teach Us about the Economics of Immigration: An Explainer and a Revelation, Center for Global Development (May 22, 2017; updated August 2, 2017).
  18. ^ Hauman, RJ. "S. 1720 - The RAISE Act". FAIR. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  19. ^ a b c d Elizabeth Redden, Opposition to Trump-Backed Immigration Bill, Inside Higher Ed (August 3, 2017).
  20. ^ "Anti-immigration base of GOP likely to cheer RAISE Act". CNBC. August 2, 2017.
  21. ^ Michael Van Sickler, Rubio only GOP senator in Gang of Eight not to denounce Trump immigration plan, Tampa Bay Times (August 4, 2017).
  22. ^ Byrd, Caitlin (August 2, 2017). "Lindsey Graham says Trump's immigration proposal would be 'devastating' for North Carolina". The Post and Courier. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  23. ^ Jordain Carney, Rubio: Trump-backed immigration bill won't pass Senate, The hill (August 7, 2017).
  24. ^ ADL slams Trump-backed GOP plan on immigration as 'cruel, un-American', Times of Israel/Associated Press (August 3, 2017).
  25. ^ a b The RAISE Act: What Lies Beneath the Proposed Points System?, American Immigration Council (August 11, 2017).

External links[edit]