The RAISE Act – An Insidious Attack on Family Values and Unity
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
President Donald Trump’s embrace of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE Act) is not a Hallelujah moment for immigrant family unity and growth of family values. Quite the contrary. Don’t’ be tricked by a title. The RAISE Act is a blatantly insidious attack on immigrants. While any anti-immigrant policy coming from the Trump administration, or from certain Republicans in Congress should not surprise us, this not being the first time non-white immigrant families have been under attack, it is still disconcerting. Considering the potential damage to immigrant families, we are not giving it sufficient attention.
While many of us are distracted and preoccupied by geopolitical issues such as North Korea’s nuclear threats and the dismantling of democracy in Venezuela; and by domestic issues such as Trump’s insensitivity to acts of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia, overt racism, neo-Nazism, and the rise of bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiments in America, the forces that hate us are using the interregnum afforded them to do harm to immigrant families. The RAISE Act, according to a Wall Street Journal Editorial Board critique:
“For years immigration restrictionists have claimed they love immigrants and merely oppose illegal entry. Apparently that was a bait and switch. President Trump’s first big restrictionist bill proposes to cut legal immigration by as much as half to 500,000 people or so a year. The President …endorsed legislation that aims to restrict “chain” family immigration and replace employer-sponsored green card with a point-based system.”
The president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group which advocates for a 70% reduction of legal immigration annually, Dan Stein, said: “The RAISE Act ends chain-migration by limiting family-based immigration to the nuclear family and replacing the employment-based system with a skills-based point structure…an immigration model that emphasized skills over bloodlines ….” Stein said the changes proposed in the RAISE Act “will truly make immigration great again.”
The RAISE Act Bill introduced by Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-AZ) and David Perdue (R-GA), and embraced by president Trump, will severely restrict sponsorship of family members by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In effect the Bill if enacted into law will prevent legal immigrant families from unifying with family members left behind in their countries of origin through family sponsorship as now allowed under current immigration law. This would be a complete reversal of a family-oriented immigration system put in place in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson and kept by subsequent presidents.
This retrograde step should be a dire warning to members of the Caribbean diaspora and other immigrant groups in the United States. It is time for immigrants of all non-white races and creeds to wake up and recognize that the enemies of immigrant families are on the warpath, this time led by Donald Trump. These enemies are using the same anti-immigrant arguments used by the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Congress of the 1990s. Anti-immigrant sentiments then resulted in passage of two immigration laws which are still dividing and devastating families today. Now these same enemies want to keep families apart. Don’t be misled to believe that these reforms are in your best interests. They are not.
The RAISE Act will replace the family-based immigration system which allows sponsorship of family members, in particular adult family members and their children, and siblings of U.S. citizens no longer included as family for immigration purposes. The merit-based system narrows the definition of family, and reduces the emigration of family members without technical and tertiary education by imposing restrictions on non-college educated core adult family members. It also accelerates the pace of brain drain from developing countries.
Many immigrants looked away when Trump declared the Muslim ban, because they were not affected; many have paid little attention to the proposed discriminatory 2% remittance tax to Latin America and the Caribbean; many seem to have ignored a major theme of Trump’s election platform “taking America back,” but haven’t asked from whom; or making “America Great Again” but don’t seem to understand how and why – without immigrants and their families by an anti-immigrant administration. Some even voted for Donald Trump, there is no denying. They now question why the neo-Nazis, the white nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Alt Right forces are finding aid and comfort, if not encouragement, from a White House where immigrants and Trump are not bedfellows – maybe not all immigrants.
Immigrants of color who flock to churches across America on Saturdays and Sundays must ask their pastors and priests, as well as other religious leaders, who they stand with, what they stand for, and whether they support Trump and his newly declared anti-immigrat policies, as well as other issues which are anathema to Christian teachings and values. Questions must be asked especially of evangelical preachers who shamelessly provide overt, unqualified support to Trump even as he turns his back “on the least of these among us” – God’s children. Yet, they maintain their support in defiance of the fundamental teachings and admonitions of the Gospels.
Lest we forget, America was built on the back of forced labor (slaves), and cheap labor (immigrants). Immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants, many from the developed world, who have fought and died and continue to fight and die for America’s freedoms enjoyed by all. This is not a recent phenomenon. Immigrants from the Caribbean and elsewhere have fought in every war on the side of freedom, including the Revolutionary War against British colonialism and tyranny. Yet the president of the United States of America decries the removal of monuments to slavery and oppressive symbols of the worse era of U.S. history – a betrayal of the U.S. Constitution.
Immigrants, members of the Caribbean diaspora, let your Congressional representatives know your concerns and express openly your opposition to the proposed RAISE Act. Become active in civic affairs and help elect Representatives and Senators, governors, state and local government political leaders who openly support your cause.
First, second, and third generation Caribbean immigrants, children, and grandchildren of immigrants, ask: Would I, my parents, or grandparents have been allowed to migrate to the United States if this merit-based system was in place? Would I be a United States born citizen if the RAISE Act was the law for the past 50-100 years?
Wake up generations of immigrants! Wake up Caribbean Diaspora! As Bob Marley implored us to do: “Get up, stand up! Stand up for your rights! Now you see the light, stand up for your rights!”
Immigrants made America great! Let’s keep it that way.
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
© 2017 Curtis A. Ward/ The Ward Post