RAISE and DREAM: What’s In These New Bills?

In the last few weeks, two major immigration bills have been introduced in Congress.  One aimed at curbing lawful immigration into the U.S. (The RAISE Act) and the other focused on creating a path to status for Dreamers, young people brought into the country as children and grew-up here (The DREAM Act of 2017).  What are these immigration-centered bills? What do they say? Who would they affect? And what do they entail?  This month we present a brief summary of the two bills so you’re in the know without having to read hundreds of pages of proposed legislation.

What is the DREAM Act of 2017?

DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.  It is a bipartisan bill authored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).  The Dream Act of 2017 would provide young people who were brought to this country as children and grew up in the United States the chance to apply for lawful permanent residence if they meet certain requirements.  Unfortunately, prior versions of the Dream Act have been unsuccessful.

What would the Dream Act of 2017 change?

The Act would expand eligibility and create routes to legal status (leading eventually to residency and citizenship) for young undocumented immigrant Dreamers. Additionally, those who hold DACA status now (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) would be immediately protected and automatically become conditional permanent residents.  After being in conditional residency status for eight years, an applicant would then be able to apply for legal permanent residency assuming they fill those requirements.

Who would be eligible to apply for the conditional residency status?

In order to qualify, an applicant would have to (1) be undocumented, a DACA recipient, or a TPS beneficiary; (2) have entered the U.S. prior to the age of 18; (3) have been continuously present in the U.S. since at least four years before the date of the Dream Act’s enactment; (4) have maintained continuous presence in the U.S. until the day they apply; (5) meet the education requirement (admitted to college, earned high school diploma/GED, or currently enrolled); (6) have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses; (7) pass a medical exam; and (8) pass a background check.

What is the RAISE Act?

RAISE stands for Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy.  The RAISE Act was introduced on August 2, 2017 by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), and endorsed by President Donald Trump.  The RAISE Act aims to cut immigration by half from current levels.  This would mark a major shift in U.S. immigration law.

What would the RAISE Act change?

First, the Act almost completely eliminates family-based immigration by allowing U.S. citizens to sponsor only spouses and minor children for residency.  This means U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents would no longer be able to sponsor their parents, adult children, or siblings.

Second, the RAISE Act would restructure the employment-based visa system into a points system similar to that currently employed by Australia and Canada.  The points system works by applying points based on favorable characteristics on a 0 to 100 scale.  If an applicant has less than 30 points, he or she is ineligible for immigration.  Points would come from age (the younger are valued higher), education, English-language skills, and salary offered.

Third, the RAISE Act would end the diversity visa program that currently awards residency to folks from historically low rates of immigration.  That is 50,000 fewer immigrants that would be approved for residency on a yearly basis.

Fourth, the RAISE Act also reduces the number of refugees allowed into the country to 50,000.  Most immigration attorneys agree this is not in line with the U.S.’s tradition of acting as a welcoming place for those fleeing persecution from other countries.

The RAISE Act would essentially decline lawful immigration numbers on all fronts.

What is the likelihood one or both acts will pass?

Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your political inclinations), both bills seem unlikely to pass in current form.  They are, however, keeping immigration at the forefront of Congressional conversation and advocating for change each in their own way.

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