Do We Need a RAISE?

I am away on a family vacation. But a couple of days ago, sitting on a beach at an undisclosed location, my iPhone started beeping and shaking. It turned out that Senators Cotton and Perdue had introduced their “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy” (RAISE) proposal. Politico asked me if I had any thoughts on the matter and here they are.

There have been a lot of rushed reactions that overlook the actual details of the proposal. Let’s face the hard truth. No conceivable change in current immigration policy will please everybody. So I tried to look at the legislation from a different angle. Does it fix some of the glaring flaws in the “broken system” we have now?

One of the points I make is that the proposed point system is a far more transparent way of allocating visas to high-skill workers than the employment preferences now used. Here is the point system (courtesy of Senator Cotton’s office) in case you haven’t seen it.

Another point is that the family preference system needs fixing and RAISE proposes one way of doing it. The current policy allows a branching out so that the relatives of my close relatives qualify for entry. As I put it in the Politico piece: “Does it really make sense to have a policy that eventually guarantees an entry visa to the immigrant’s brother‘s wife‘s father‘s sister?”

i suspect that the intense emotions triggered by immigration so corrupt the debate that we will not get a RAISE in the end. But it’s really too bad that we can’t even talk about ways to update an outdated 50-year old policy.



Author: George Borjas

I am a Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.