Two Prominent Florida Republicans Offer Thoughts on RAISE Act Proposal

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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Two prominent Republicans from Florida made interesting comments regarding the RAISE Act, the substantial immigration bill proposal co-sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. To read an overview of the RAISE Act proposal and my thoughts on the proposed legislation, please see my comprehensive blog [see blog]. In this article, we will examine the comments of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Senator Rubio's remarks were reported by Melissa Quinn of the Washington Examiner [link].1 I noted in my full blog on the RAISE Act that Senator Rubio seemed to express support for some of the legislation's goals. In a subsequent interview, he suggested that, despite the RAISE Act being supported by President Trump, he believed that there was no chance that it would pass the Senate.

RAISE Act

Regarding the merits of the legislation, he supported its goal of creating a merit-based immigration system, noting that this particular point of the legislation was similar to the Gang of Eight effort he was part of in 2013. However, Senator Rubio disagreed with the proposed cuts to overall immigration numbers in the proposal. He stated that his goal was not to limit legal immigration, but rather to change the immigration system. He noted that where he differed was the RAISE Act's setting of an “arbitrary cap on the number of people that are able to come through with a green card.” Instead, he suggested that immigration numbers should be tied to demand.

Newsmax reported comments on the legislation from Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida who, like Rubio, ran for president in 2016 [link].2 Similarly to Senator Rubio, Bush backed the RAISE Act's implementation of a points-based system for employment immigration, noting that it was similar to systems in Australia and Canada which have proven to be successful. Bush went further, also supporting the limitation of family reunification visas to spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. He criticized the current system of allowing adult siblings, adult parents, and adult sons and daughters to obtain permanent resident status through family-based immigration. He added that the United States takes in far more family-based immigrants as a percentage of total immigrants than “any other country.”

However, Bush criticized two aspects of the proposal. First, he agreed with Senator Rubio that overall immigration levels should not be cut. Second, he disagreed with what he described as the English language requirement, believing that it should only come into play for naturalization purposes.

I agree with both Rubio and Bush that the RAISE Act fails in cutting overall immigration levels. However, as they note, certain elements of the legislation, such as the concept of the points-based immigration system, should be a part of any immigration reform effort. It is unclear whether there is any path in the Senate to passing immigration legislation of this scope. However, if an agreement can be reached on the issue of overall immigration numbers between those who want reductions, such as Senators Cotton and Perdue, and those who want to keep the numbers steady or increase them, such as Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, it is possible that workable legislation which includes a points-based system for employment immigration could garner more serious consideration.

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  1. Quinn, Melissa. “Marco Rubio: Trump's immigration bill is 'not going to pass' the Senate.” Washington Examiner. Aug. 7, 2017. Washingtonexaminer.com
  2. Beamon, Todd. “Jeb Bush Likes Some Parts of Trump-Backed Immigration Plan.” Newsmax. Aug. 9, 2017. Newsmax.com