Wednesday President Donald Trump was joined by Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to tout a merit-based immigration system which could limit the already scarce workforce for agriculture. But for agriculture, it misses the mark of providing a workforce willing to do jobs that Americans won't do themselves.
The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act would spur economic growth and raise working Americans’ wages by giving priority to the best-skilled immigrants from around the world and reducing overall immigration by half.
In a speech, Trump said, “The RAISE Act ends chain migration, and replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card. This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”
The bill reduces overall immigration numbers to limit low-skilled and unskilled labor entering the United States. It also limits permanent resident status for refugees to 50,000 a year, in line with the 13-year average.
Perdue said the proposal is modeled after the current Canadian and Australian systems. “It’s pro-worker, it’s pro-growth and it’s been proven to work. Both have been extremely successful in attracting highly skilled workers to those countries.”
However, Jeff Burton, American Dairy Coalition lobbyist, said the legislation is unlikely to move forward as it would dramatically reduce legal immigration. “This legislation is unlikely to ever pass the Senate. Currently there would be roughly 30 GOP votes for this legislation and zero Democrats,” he said, adding that the current bill has gained little traction
“It’s reported that undocumented immigrants make up about half the workforce in the U.S. The result has been disastrous for dairies, feedlots, farms, meatpacking plants, etc. Sustaining their current productivity – especially in states where unemployment is less than half the national unemployment rate is already hard enough,” Burton said.
ADC has been supportive of several immigration bills on the House side. Most recently their attention has been focused on working with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on his Agricultural Guestworker Ag (Ag Act). The bill provides guestworker status, which is very different than what the President supported RAISE Act does to limit immigrants working in the United States. Goodlatte is expected to introduce his bill soon after Labor Day, Burton said.
Burton added it is time to grow the coalition in support of Goodlatte’s bill, which he says addresses the unique needs of the agriculture industry. “Our dairy, livestock and agriculture industries must unite and fight for the Ag Act to move forward.
The American Farm Bureau Federation offered no view of the RAISE Act, but spokesman Will Rodger said AFBF continues to “hope for H2A reform and increased, lawful labor supply for farmers.”