A Grain Of Saul

A Grain Of Saul: I Put Everything You Need To Know About The Latest Immigration Proposal On An Index Card

Politicians can make some things unnecessarily complex.

A Grain of Saul is a weekly column that digs into some of the biggest issues we face as a nation and as an international community in search of reliable data, realistic solutions, and — most importantly — hope.  

I always struggled in math class. But in high school, I had several teachers offer a helping hand in advance of upcoming exams: they'd let me cover a single index card in the facts and formulas I needed to tackle tough problems.

It's a common testing tactic, popular in schools across the country, and for good reason: teachers who let their students bring in notecards aren't testing them on how well they can parrot back this or that equation. They're testing them on how they deal with the complicated subject matter. They're giving their students a leg up on the basics so that their students can show how they think and how they problem solve.

So, when news broke about President Donald Trump's most recent immigration proposal — the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment ) Act — I remembered my teachers' wisdom, and wondered what it would be like if every American had an immigration cheatsheet full of relevant facts and figures. I wondered how they would fare — and how they would vote — on the coming test.

The then-president-elect arrives on stage to deliver a speech at a Thank You tour rally held at the Giant Center in December, 2016.
The then-president-elect arrives on stage to deliver a speech at a Thank You tour rally held at the Giant Center in December, 2016.

The bill and the White House's attempt to sell it were littered with buzzwords and implications that were either misleading or stood in stark contrast to statistics that are readily available. The problems the bill set out to address — like immigrants supposedly draining our welfare system or hurting American workers — simply aren't backed up by the evidence.

In its arguments for the bill, the White House is making immigration more complex and less comprehensible than it is. Without having some fast facts on immigration and immigration reform, it might become easy to read The RAISE Act and take issues it claims to solve as facts themselves. But while reforming our immigration system isn't simple, I believe understanding the implications of The Raise Act is. So, inspired by the wisdom of my teachers, I decided to see if I could fit everything you need to know to evaluate The RAISE Act on the front of an index card.

Trying to make it all fit. A Plus.
Trying to make it all fit. A Plus.
It all fits. A P lus.
It all fits. A P lus.

So, how does The RAISE Act fare when put into context?

Well, the bill should give you pause. Much of the RAISE Act suddenly seems like it'd have devastating economic consequences. It would negatively impact a huge portion of the labor force. It would increase the demand for undocumented immigrants and slow economic growth. It could reduce the funding for social programs that most immigrants aren't even using, but are still contributing to with their taxes. 

As The Washington Post editorial board argued, low U.S. birth rate and low immigration, mixed with a lot of available jobs and slow economic growth, could send the U.S. into an economic tail spin much like Japan's. 

But these facts also point to issues Trump's immigration policies frequently run into: they paint immigrants as being more violent, more needy, and more malicious than native-born Americans — something there is little evidence for. The one study the administration did cite, performed by the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), said immigrants are more likely to use welfare than native-born Americans. But that study was widely rebuked, most thoroughly by the pro-immigration Cato Institute, which pointed out CIS's own controlled statistical evidence, cited as footnotes, disproved the headline takeaways the Trump administration tried to run with.

In November, 2016, Latinos, immigrants and supporters gathered 3,000 strong in New York City  march  against the proposed immigration policies Shutterstock / a katz.
In November, 2016, Latinos, immigrants and supporters gathered 3,000 strong in New York City  march  against the proposed immigration policies Shutterstock / a katz.

The truth is, the RAISE Act is unlikely to ever become law. Most reporters who cover Congress say it's got close to zero chance of getting out of the House, and no chance of making it through the Senate, where it would need 8 Democrats to vote for it. Politicians with experience in immigration know a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a welcoming legal immigration system and cities with a robust immigrant population mean more tax money, a faster-growing economy and safer neighborhoods. That's why staunch Republicans in states with large immigrant populations — such as Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain — have already come out against The RAISE Act. 

It's high time that we as as Americans made our policy decisions based on statistical fact, not political fiction. And if anyone tells you it's all too much to commit to memory, fear not: the most important facts fit on an index card small enough you can keep it in your pocket.

You can follow Isaac Saul on Twitter at @Ike_Saul.

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