By Bill Parry
Immigration organizations joined U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) in denouncing President Donald Trump’s endorsement of an immigration plan that would drastically limit opportunities for immigrants to come to the United States legally.
The GOP legislation, known as the Reforming Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, would reduce the number of people who receive legal permanent residence by 50 percent over the next decade and move the United States to a “merit-based” immigration system where education and English proficiency would be considered.
“As a candidate, I campaigned on creating a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers, and that’s why we are here today,” President Trump said last week. He claimed the measures would reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.
The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it will need 60 votes to pass.
Crowley, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, agreed the immigration system needs to be fixed, but it must be done through comprehensive reform.
“This so-called ‘merit-based’ proposal from congressional Republicans and President Trump falls far short of that goal,” Crowley said. “It will shut out immigrants who are seeking a better life in America, without considering their history, their familial ties to the U.S., or their potential to contribute to the nation. This is nothing short of an anti-immigrant and anti-family proposal from the GOP. I will work hard to ensure it is dead on arrival.”
The New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York state that work with immigrants and refugees, agreed with Crowley.
“Trump’s plan to slash legal immigration is just another senseless attack on our country’s values,” the coalition’s executive director, Steven Choi, said. “Trump doesn’t get that immigrants are good for America — good for our economy, our families and our communities — and this plan is just a mean-spirited fallback to vitriol and division. Americans will not be richer or safer if we stifle the labor force and drive families apart. This is not who we are as a nation, and we will continue to fight back against the Trump administration’s self-defeating agenda.”
The New York-based Hispanic Federation, one of the nation’s largest organizations supporting the Latino community, called the legislation a “targeted, callous and foolish plan” to curtail immigration to the United States.
“The RAISE Act is nothing more than a return to the failed and cruel quota system of the early 20th century when anti-immigrant leaders in Congress closed our country off to immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Then, as now, the sponsors of this shameless piece of nationalist legislation framed their plan as an attempt to stabilize the American economy and promote assimilation,” the federation said in a statement. “The RAISE Act is an extremist proposal that will keep families apart, punish the poor, and hurt the American economy by denying businesses access to essential workers. The United States must reform its immigration system, not destroy it.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr