For the past year, my 87-year-old grandmother has been studying American civics from her living room in preparation for her naturalization test. With determination and focus, she studied the story of how our nation came to be, pausing every so often to practice her pronunciation of names and events—“Abraham Lincoln,” “Martin Luther King, Jr.,” “The Vietnam War,” and so on. Last week, her efforts finally paid off when she passed her naturalization interview and became a U.S. citizen.
My grandmother’s story in this country began more than 30 years ago when she came to America from Mexico and became a permanent resident through a family-based visa category that enables U.S. citizens to petition for visas for immediate family members. Her daughter, my aunt, petitioned for my grandmother’s visa immediately after becoming a citizen herself and the two were reunited in Chicago, Illinois.
My grandmother’s journey is similar to that of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who apply to obtain legal residency in the United States each year and often endure long waiting periods before they are issued a visa. Unfortunately, the family-based visa categories that created a path to citizenship for my grandmother and her children are being threatened today. In the coming weeks, Congress will consider the RAISE Act, a bill that would drastically change our country’s approach to immigration and refugee resettlement. If passed, the bill would:
- Eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program which issues 50,000 immigrant visas to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. through a lottery system annually.
- End some family-based visa categories, and in doing so, close the door on tens of thousands of immigrants hoping to reunite with their families in the United States.
- Cap the number of refugees who are able to resettle in the United States at 50,000 annually. The previous administration had lifted the admission ceiling to 110,000 for fiscal year 2017. This cap would drastically lower the number of refugees admitted into the country and prevent the sitting U.S. president from lifting the ceiling in response to humanitarian crises.
- Shift away from a demand-driven model for employment-based immigration that allows employers to petition for foreign workers.
- Introduce a points-based system that would score who is eligible to enter the country. This system would cap the number of visas issued each year at 140,000 and disproportionately exclude women, older adults, those without a formal education and those from less-developed countries.
The net effect of this legislation would be a drastic reduction of legal immigrants coming to the United States, and a long term loss for our economy and our state’s labor market. If the RAISE Act is passed, the United States would stand to lose approximately 1.3 million jobs over the next 10 years. Immigrants of all skill sets keep Michigan’s economy solvent and help to revitalize and enrich our communities. We need a system that treats people as people, values the contributions of our immigrant population and helps us maintain a strong modern economy.
My grandmother’s naturalization ceremony is just around the corner. On that day, she will wave the American flag and recite an oath of allegiance to this country. I will always remain thankful for her sacrifices. It is because of her courage and resilience that I am a first-generation college graduate. Her triumphs and struggles are part of the reason why I developed a passion for immigration policy, and why I decided to join the League as a policy fellow this year so that I could continue to advocate for the rights of all immigrants. It’s time that our members of Congress and state legislators join me and other advocates in standing up to harmful anti-immigrant proposals, and push for positive immigration reform that can deliver promise and prosperity to everyone.
— Victoria Crouse