The RAISE Act: U.S. Senate to consider new legislation on immigration reform

On Aug. 2, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) were joined by President Donald J. Trump to announce a bill intended to overhaul the current U.S. immigration system. The RAISE Act, an acronym for the “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act,” modifies a previously introduced Senate Bill [S.354—115th Congress (2017–2018)]. The summary provided in the legislation states its objective as follows:

“To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to establish a skills-based immigration points system, to focus family-sponsored immigration on spouses and minor children, to eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, to set a limit on the number of refugees admitted annually to the United States, and for other purposes.”

The RAISE Act proposes creating a skills-based immigration point system, similar to the immigration system used by Canada. This merit-based immigration system would constitute a drastic change from the current, more family-centric immigration system. Among other things, the bill proposes significant reductions and limitations to current family-based immigration categories, as well as imposing stricter numerical limits on the admission of asylees and refugees. In its current form, the bill proposes the elimination of most family-based visa categories. It would also remove the parents of U.S. citizens from the “immediate relative” visa category, creating in its place a provision for granting temporary, nonimmigrant admission to parents of U.S. citizens. Immigrant categories for the spouses and minor, unmarried children of U.S. citizens would not be eliminated.

It is unclear what level of support the RAISE Act may or may not have in the current Congress. However, to become law, many additional steps would need to be completed. First, the bill would have to go through a process of review, be brought to a vote, and successfully pass in the Senate. Next, it would have to be taken up and passed by the House of Representatives. As the bill is considered by the Senate and/or House, amendments will likely be introduced. Only after both the Senate and the House pass the final version of the bill could President Trump actually sign it into law.

The White House press release regarding the RAISE Act can be found at: Senator Cotton’s press release and a complete text version of the new bill are available at:

Emily A. Gorces is an immigration paralegal with Murphy Desmond S.C. This article has been revised by Murphy Desmond’s Immigration Attorney Practice Leader Glorily A. López.

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