Asian-American activists are standing firmly against the recently introduced bill to curb legal immigration.
Advocacy groups have been speaking out against the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE), an immigration bill President Donald Trump endorsed on Wednesday. In addition to discontinuing the visa lottery program and limiting the number of refugees to enter the country, the bill would eliminate the prioritization of green cards for adult children and extended family of those already in the states.
It would also favor applicants who “can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Trump said at a White House event beside Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.)
"They are attempting to legislate hate and discrimination and frankly keep America majority white."
And the legislation isn’t sitting right with Asian-American groups who believe it’s part of a larger strategy to scapegoat immigrants.
“The overwhelming message is that these Congressmen and the administration want to marginalize immigrants and people of color,” John C. Yang, president & executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC, told HuffPost. “They are attempting to legislate hate and discrimination and frankly keep America majority white.”
Yang pointed out that RAISE would disproportionately affect the Asian-American community. The minority is the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. and two-thirds of the community are immigrants. The overwhelming majority of Asian immigrants come to the U.S. through the family-based system, reports show. Those who come to the country on employment-based visas often rely on the family-based system to reunite with other family members.
However the bill would cut family-based immigrant visas to 88,000 each year ― compare that to the 673,000 people who received green cards through the family based system during the 2015 fiscal year alone. These restrictions feel particularly painful for Asian-Americans as the proposed policy hearkens back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first significant U.S. law to restrict immigration, Annie Wang, staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense And Education Fund explained. By putting a moratorium on Chinese immigration, the act kept immigrants from reuniting with their families in the United States.
In addition, many in the Asian-American community who have applied to sponsor family members have already been enduring separation from their families because of the backlog for visas, Yang said. India and the Philippines have among the highest number of waiting list registrants. And some prospective immigrants have been waiting decades to be with their families again.
“The bill would keep the vast majority of those people from being sponsored and coming to live in the U.S.,” Yang told HuffPost. “People have planned their lives around these goals by making decisions about investing in the U.S. rather than their country of origin.”
The language component of the bill would greatly affect Asian-Americans as well. Currently, Asian-Americans have the highest rate of limited English proficiency, defined as those who have “limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English.” And a 2014 study indicates that the 4 percent of the group cannot speak English at all. By instituting a ranking system proposed in the bill, it’s probable that many prospective Asian immigrants would receive fewer points and be denied a green card, Wang fears.
"Simply stated, reduction in immigration will result in reducing the country’s economic and GDP growth. That would harm all Americans."
But the bill, which would cut legal immigration in half within a decade, wouldn’t just prove harmful to prospective Asian immigrants. Yang said the U.S. economy would likely take a hit. Almost 2 million businesses are owned by Asian-Americans with a large chunk involved in the accommodations and food services sector, according to the Minority Business Development Agency. And these businesses provided 3.6 million jobs.
Educational attainment, Yang believes, isn’t a measure for creativity or entrepreneurial spirit.
“Simply stated, reduction in immigration will result in reducing the country’s economic and GDP growth. That would harm all Americans,” he said.
Some outlets have stated that the bill could potentially benefit highly skilled, educated workers like tech professionals from India. But Yang said there are no guarantees, pointing to factors such as low quota numbers.
“Although some subgroups may get more points under the system, the low numbers and uncertainties in how the system will be administered make it hard to predict whether more members of that subgroup would get visas or a path to citizenship,” he said.
Yang mentioned that going forward, he hopes that the community can be vocal about how damaging the legislation will be to the country, urging Congressmen to vote against the bill.
“We need our government to focus on policy solutions that repairs our broken immigration system without being detrimental to those who in America, waiting to come to America, or want the opportunity to pursue the American Dream,” he said.