Not a chance in hell. Merit-based legal immigration? That makes way too much sense for a Congress that likes its foreign labor unskilled and cheap.
That point system is a thing of beauty. Immigrants would be scored on a scale of zero to 100, though in practice it’s more like a scale of zero to 45 — someone with a perfect score would need a Nobel Prize (25 points), an Olympic medal (15), and $1.8 million invested in a business (12), for instance. More typically, potential immigrants would be scored based on their level of education, their English fluency, their age (with ten points for those 26 to 30 and zero points for those 50 and up), and the salary they’ve been offered (with 13 points for compensation at least triple the median salary of the state where the job is located, and no points for an offer less than 50 percent above the median). Importantly, if an applicant wished to bring a spouse, the spouse’s education, age, and language skills would count for 30 percent of a combined score.
Those without at least 30 points would be ineligible, and ties would be broken by (in descending order) education, language, and age. Immigrants admitted through the point system would be ineligible for welfare benefits for five years.
That’s NRO’s Robert VerBruggen describing Tom Cotton’s and David Perdue’s RAISE Act. “Chain migration” that benefits immigrants’ low-skilled family members would be out, replaced by a system that rewards younger, better educated immigrants. That bill’s headed straight down the toilet in the Senate, needless to say; the Democratic Party has sound electoral reasons to prefer poorer immigrants. But it’s a good hill for the GOP to fight on. According to a Rasmussen poll taken in April, independents favor a merit-based system over a family-based one by a 47/32 spread. “Let’s favor immigrants who can contribute more economically” is an easy pitch to voters. Let Chuck Schumer worry about having to argue the opposite.
The wrinkle, though, is that the Cotton/Perdue aims to reduce legal immigration as a goal in itself, not just as an expected side effect of giving preference to immigrants with more valuable skills. By one estimate, the number of legal immigrants admitted annually under the bill would drop by half in the next 10 years, from one million to 500,000. VerBruggen calls that a major problem, with good reason: Politically, opposing legal immigration is not a good hill to fight on. You can make the traditional argument about fewer immigrants meaning higher wages for Americans but most voters are aware of that trade-off, I suspect. And even so, per a Qunnipiac poll taken last year, 89 percent(!) say legal immigration is a “good thing.” When Gallup asked last year if immigration should be increased, decreased, or kept at its present level, 59 percent said “increased” or “present level” versus just 38 percent who said “decreased.”
Framing the bill as a means to cut legal immigration rather than merely replace lower-skilled immigrants with higher-skilled ones will make Schumer’s job easier. From the White House’s perspective, though, maybe it makes sense: Since the bill is going nowhere, they might as well get crazy with the populist-nationalist cheez whiz and make Trump’s base happy. Plus, if they can get the bill on the floor, doubtless a bunch of pro-immigration Republicans like Jeff Flake will join with Democrats in opposing it, giving Trump and Steve Bannon new ammo against the “globalist” GOP establishment. If nothing’s getting passed this year, the next best thing is to remind your supporters who the enemy is to keep them motivated.
Exit question: We might as well call this The Tom Cotton 2024 Iowa Primary Act of 2017, right? He’s obviously thinking about a presidential run after Trump is gone. Ingratiating himself to Trump’s base is the first logical step.