The Islamic terrorist attack that occurred in New York City this week highlights the need to reform the United States immigration system. Rather than prioritizing those who have earned the right to enter our country, the current program utilizes a lottery to award visas without proper vetting, which threatens our national security. Further, our immigration policy should spur economic growth and raise wages for hard-working Americans. These reasons are why I am a co-sponsor of the House of Representatives version of the RAISE Act.
The current immigration system arbitrarily awards visas without regard to merit. Currently, only one in every 15 immigrants to the United States come here because of their skills. Factors such as diversity and detachment from families are unfortunately prioritized over skills when determining visa applicant status.
The largest flaw in our system is the Diversity Visa lottery, which arbitrarily grants green cards from a variety of underrepresented countries to diversify the immigrant population moving into the United States, and is beleaguered with fraud. This system allows people like Islamic terrorist Sayfullo Saipov, who immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan after winning a visa lottery in 2010, to gain citizenship. Tragedies like the New York attack underscore the need to fix our visa program.
Further, our immigration system allows chain migration. This means migrants with distant family members in the United States are given priority over other applicants. Chain migration also fails to consider merit, proper vetting of candidates, or any other qualifications when deciding who gains priority in awarding visas.
The RAISE Act would seek to solve these problems by awarding green cards based on the skills of applicants through a points system. Merit-based immigration systems in Australia and Canada have helped their economies, and inspired the RAISE Act. Both countries use a points system to evaluate which applicants should be awarded visas, leading to those who would be productive members of society entrance. The RAISE Act would incorporate a similar system in the United States to consider factors such as education, English language ability, and record of extraordinary achievement. This would eliminate the chain migration ordeal while preserving immigration preferences for spouses and minor children of United States residents.
High-skilled immigrants are more likely to become contributing members of society. They are less likely to become dependent on the welfare state, reducing the burden on American taxpayers. High-skilled immigrants who better assimilate into our society are also less likely to feel isolated and become radicalized by extremist propaganda such as Sayfullo Saipov.
Immigration needs to respect our national security and reflect our 21st century economy. The current outdated system fails to achieve these purposes. Passage of the RAISE Act is a step in the right direction.
Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district. He is the Vice-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.
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