When you deal with the subject of immigration over an extended period of time, as I have, one of the uncomfortable realities you must contend with is the nature of most immigration-related legislation. Strip away the fancy bill names, get down into the guts of the language, and you discover that it is all about catering to special interests: big business, big agriculture, this or that group of aliens. Once in a while, it serves (or purports to serve) sweeping national security purposes. But almost never does it serve the interests of the bedrock of our nation: all of the average Joes and average Janes out there who are working hard, often struggling to get by, both parents in a family unit employed if they can find the work, sometimes at more than one job each because the pay or benefits are inadequate.
I'm happy to report that Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) have introduced a bill in the Senate called the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act that unashamedly puts the interests of the American people front and center.
To mention just a few items that the bill features:
The bill will take measured steps to reduce, over a period of several years, legal immigration to levels more in line with historic norms than the million-plus our country has been absorbing annually for several years now. This is good for the wages of average Americans, and good for the national interest because it ensures not only that the arriving immigrants have a better chance at assimilation and integration into the national polity, but also that local governments, schools, and social safety nets are better poised to absorb them.
One of the ways in which it whittles down the numbers is by eliminating certain categories of chain migration that make little sense, such as visa categories for extended family members (as opposed to the nuclear family).
The bill also eliminates the absurd and ill-considered visa lottery, a system that is the immigration equivalent of casting dollars into the wind, using visas instead.
And it amends the cap on refugee admissions and adjustments of status, which under the Obama administration reached unheard-of levels. This too is welcome given the disturbing frequency with which we have seen questions raised about the quality of vetting, not to mention the positive proofs from time to time of refugees or their children becoming involved in terrorism or attempting to go abroad to join violent jihadist groups like al Shabaab and ISIS.
Sen. Jeff Sessions once spoke of a "humble populism" that should underlie immigration legislation. While the word populism may be in bad odor in some quarters, I think of this concept of humble populism as a different proposition; it is simply something that recognizes the importance of the increasingly forgotten men and women who make up our country, including those with immigrant roots, and who only want to be able to leave for their children the chance for a better life, as their parents did for them.
It seems to me that Sens. Perdue and Cotton have recognized that fact. The RAISE Act stands as a promise to the American people; let us hope that their colleagues act promptly and positively to move this bill to the House for action.