What the RAISE ACT Means For Immigration And The Environment

On August 2nd, President Donald Trump unveiled a bold new immigration bill alongside Republican Senators Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) at the White House. The bill, known as the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act or “RAISE,” proposes that the United States cut down on immigration by at least 50 percent by the next decade, including limiting the entrance of refugees to 50,000 per year. The bill would also eliminate a “diversity lottery visa” program as well as the ability to sponsor visas for extended family members or adult children.

“Among those who have been hit hardest in recent years are immigrants and minority workers competing for jobs against brand-new arrivals,” said Trump, during the announcement. “It has not been fair to our people, our citizens and our workers.”

The Raise Act provides a solution for our complex immigration system in the form of a merit-based point system. This method is not an unproven concept: Similar systems have been implemented in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, and also prioritize high-skilled, educated, and English fluent immigrants. This system is a great way for the United States to protect the jobs and wages of lower skill workers by preventing an unchecked flow of cheaper foreign labor. This action will hopefully protect our economy from unnecessary damage and discourage corporations from using unfair labor practices.

This piece of legislation is a big step forward in both acknowledging the issues of unrestricted immigration and towards solving it; a reduction in immigration by half would do a lot to alleviate the stress put on our environments and communities. As found in our Environmental Impact Study, if immigration continues at the same rate as today, the population of the United States will almost double from 326 million to 524 million by the year 2100. Leon Kolankiewicz, scientist and natural resources planner believes the projected increase with this proposed legislation, which would lead to a more manageable, albeit still large number of 415 million by the end of the century. With our natural resources stretched thin, and open space lost to new developments every day, our environment can’t afford to handle unsustainable levels of population growth.

Raise has already found itself in difficult waters however, with opponents in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Areas of the bill are not perfect: the removal of the extended family visa will surely result in more illegal immigration from said family members, but finding a perfect solution to human problems is rarely easy. It is unlikely that the bill will find enough support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass a vote in the Senate.

Immigration in the United States has increased rapidly since 1965. It is important to note that this increase in immigration was not enacted due to some sort of groundswell of support of the idea. On the contrary, public opinion polls have found Americans generally split 40% to 40%, between wanting to decrease immigration and wanting to keep it at current levels. Only 10% to 15% of responses have actually favored an increase in immigration. However, in a recent Pew Research Center study, roughly 74% of U.S. adults believe “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.”

Professor Philip Cafaro, author of How Many is Too Many? The Progressive Argument for Reducing Immigration said this regarding the Raise Act: “Along with the strong economic arguments for scaling back immigration there are good environmental ones. The Cotton Purdue bill’s reductions will cut US population growth by tens of millions in the coming decades, with tremendous benefits to the environment ”

The United States should explore all options it has to protect the environment, and that includes understanding the problem of unsustainable population growth. Progressives for Immigration Reform has done extensive study on the environmental impact of immigration on North America. Our findings were dire: it was found that if no action was taken to limit population growth, it would likely result in a permanent effect on the environment from increase in urban and suburban sprawl, loss of arable farmland and habitats, and increase in carbon emissions. If no action is taken, it is expected that over 31 million acres of farmland will be lost to urban and suburban development. Urban sprawl, which at the current time is approximately 113 million acres, will explode to 192 million.

The situation somewhat echoes The Silent Spring, circa 1962. Whereas the danger presented to wildlife in Spring was due to extreme usage of pesticides, our current predicament is due to our drive to expand. More common than ever across the country, sightseers must gaze out across man-made clutter where once there had been natural landscape. Smog from California’s booming Central Valley cloud the beautiful vistas of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Light pollution from our cities often drown out the night stars. We cannot delay our response any longer, and action must be taken to avert the looming crisis to our planet.

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