New York’s top elected officials as well as immigrant advocates criticized President Trump for endorsing legislation that calls for merit-based immigration, reduced levels of green cards and an end to the “diversity visa” program.
Trump announced Wednesday that he is backing the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act sponsored by U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.). Their plan would replace the current framework for granting employment visas with a “skills-based system that rewards applicants based on their individual merits.”
The bill would end the “diversity visa” lottery system, which grants 50,000 green cards every year. It would limit grants of permanent resident status for refugees to 50,000 a year and prioritize immediate family members of U.S. residents — including spouses and minor children — but not extended family members or adult children.
U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn, a Democrat who recently urged the State Department to resist citizenship nullification for Dominicans of Haitian descent, described the move as detrimental to black immigrants.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration found that nearly 69 percent of black immigrants come to the United States through sponsorship by relatives or by the visa lottery. The organization’s executive director, Opal Tometi, who is also one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, weighed in on Trump’s announcement.
African Communities Together — an organization of African immigrants fighting for civil rights and opportunities for Africans in the United States — which is part of the New York Immigration Coalition, also lamented the impact of the legislation on African immigrants.
“After stepping up the crackdown on immigrants without papers, the Trump administration is now limiting opportunities for immigrants to come to the US legally,” the group wrote on its Facebook page. “Including the Diversity Visa and family visas, which many Africans benefit from.”
Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement agenda has included two blocked executive orders barring entry to people from several Muslim-majority countries that is now partially in effect as the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in October, a proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border, and expanding immigration detention.
Queens Rep. Joe Crowley, the House Democratic caucus chairman, said he supports comprehensive immigration reform and that the “so-called ‘merit-based'” proposal from Trump and congressional Republicans “falls far short of that goal.”
“It will shut out immigrants who are seeking a better life in America, without considering their history, their familial ties to the U.S., or their potential to contribute to our nation,” Crowley said. “This is nothing short of an anti-immigrant and anti-family proposal from the GOP. I will work hard to ensure it is dead on arrival.”
In a series of tweets, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that more immigrants are living in the city today “than at any other time in the last century” and that it is “safer and more prosperous than ever.” He also recounted his own family’s history.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito criticized the “misguided and dangerous” legislation, which she said would hurt the workforce and the American economy.
“These are real lives being placed in jeopardy as the “Party of Family Values” disavows those who do not look like theirs, and turns our nation of opportunity into one of racist exclusion, predicated on nationalistic standards like prioritizing English-speaking applicants,” Mark-Viverito said.
On Monday, de Blasio and Mark-Viverito announced that private funding would finance taxpayer-funded attorneys for the undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes, and have reiterated that New York City is a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants. But activists and immigrant advocates say people arrested for low-level offenses can be deported because federal immigration agents have access to them.