Why Cot­ton?

Is im­mi­gra­tion change fod­der for pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tion?

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Brenda Blagg Brenda Blagg is a free­lance colum­nist and long­time jour­nal­ist in North­west Arkansas. Email her at bren­da­jblagg@gmail.com.

The first ques­tion is why.

Why would a U.S. sen­a­tor from Arkansas in­vest him­self so heav­ily in chang­ing the laws gov­ern­ing le­gal im­mi­gra­tion?

That is, of course, what U.S. Sen. Tom Cot­ton, R-Ark., is do­ing.

Last week, he was in the na­tional spot­light with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and U.S. Sen. David Per­due, R-Ga., who is co-spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion with Cot­ton that the pres­i­dent en­thu­si­as­ti­cally en­dorsed.

The bill is called the RAISE Act, which is the acro­nym for “Re­form­ing Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion for a Strong Econ­omy.”

Trump is per­suaded that the changes the sen­a­tors pro­pose “will re­duce poverty, in­crease wages and save tax­pay­ers bil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars.”

For his part, Cot­ton con­tends im­mi­grants com­pete against Amer­i­cans for jobs, mak­ing it harder for work­ing-class peo­ple to make a liv­ing.

The bill is de­signed to limit how many peo­ple may im­mi­grate to the U.S. and to fa­vor those who can con­trib­ute more to the econ­omy than oth­ers.

It would, among many other things, re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple who are al­lowed to im­mi­grate, ar­guably by as much as 50 per­cent within 10 years.

Now, le­gal im­mi­gra­tion brings more than a mil­lion peo­ple a year into the U.S.

Ac­cord­ing to Cot­ton’s web­site, based on the work of Prince­ton and Har­vard re­searchers, the RAISE Act would lower over­all le­gal im­mi­gra­tion by 41 per­cent in its first year and cut im­mi­gra­tion by half in its tenth year.

The bill would also re­set pri­or­i­ties on who could come into the coun­try.

It would pri­or­i­tize what Cot­ton’s web­site calls “ultra high-skilled im­mi­grants who spur in­no­va­tion, cre­ate jobs and make Amer­ica more com­pet­i­tive,” while turn­ing away low-skilled or un­skilled work­ers for per­ma­nent work visas.

This would sup­pos­edly hap­pen through a skills-based points sys­tem that re­wards po­ten­tial im­mi­grants who have bet­ter ed­u­ca­tions and English-speaking skills. That’s just the start.

There would also be points given for those with some high-pay­ing job await­ing them here or with the proven abil­ity to in­vest in a busi­ness or other un­der­tak­ing.

Pref­er­ence would go, too, to younger im­mi­grants (with more work­ing years ahead of them) and to those with some record of ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ment, like a No­bel Prize or Olympic medal.

You get the pic­ture.

The sys­tem cer­tainly seems to fa­vor peo­ple other than the tired, the poor, the “hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free” who are beck­oned in the poem at the base of the Statue of Lib­erty — the kind of hard-work­ing im­mi­grants to whom many Amer­i­cans trace their her­itage.

Tomorrow’s im­mi­grants, as en­vi­sioned by Cot­ton and Pur­due and Trump, must bring some­thing more than their dreams and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Nor should fu­ture im­mi­grants count on bring­ing rel­a­tives other than spouses and mi­nor chil­dren. Adult chil­dren and ex­tended fam­ily would have no path­way to per­ma­nent res­i­dency or cit­i­zen­ship.

At least, that’s what Cot­ton and Per­due — with Trump’s strong sup­port — are propos­ing.

The bill, ac­cord­ing to the pres­i­dent, is “the most sig­nif­i­cant re­form to our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem in half a cen­tury.”

It is sig­nif­i­cant. But is it good? Is this what the coun­try wants?

These are but a few of the par­tic­u­lars in the leg­is­la­tion, which will prob­a­bly face the same fate as other pro­posed over­hauls of the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem have in the last 50 years.

Most likely, there will be this flash of at­ten­tion to the bill with lots of fol­low-up stump speeches to the same crowds that so heartily en­dorse build­ing a bor­der wall to block il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Stem­ming the tide of le­gal im­mi­grants may play as well to them as did Trump’s call for a wall and his claim that Mex­ico would pay for it.

And that may ex­plain why a U.S. sen­a­tor from Arkansas, at least one with his own pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions, has taken up this cause.

Cot­ton doesn’t par­tic­u­larly need more ex­po­sure in Arkansas, but he is try­ing to get no­ticed in the rest of the coun­try.

For good or for bad, his at­tempt to al­ter le­gal im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy should help ac­com­plish that.

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