Last week the White House continued its divisive, un-American, and coordinated attacks on immigrant communities.
The revised “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy” (RAISE) Act, introduced by Sens. Tom CottonTom CottonAmerica celebrates personal merit — US immigration should too GOP senator: US-Russia relationship ‘not good right now’ because of Putin White House warns ‘potentially ambitious’ Republicans about 2020 MORE (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), and heavily endorsed by the administration, seeks to slash the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country by 50 percent over the next decade.
The legislation would eliminate the diversity visa lottery in exchange for a merit-based immigration system favoring English speaking applicants and those with job skills and advanced degrees, substantially limit the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. to reunite with their families, and cap refugee admissions at 50,000.
The resulting system would likely not have allowed members of my own extended immigrant family into America, let alone future strivers, dreamers, and achievers into the country.
In our quintessential nation of immigrants, government policies should reflect our core American ideals of equality, fairness, and unity. Yet the RAISE Act is a negation of all these values.
South Asians are the fastest growing demographic group in the US, numbering over 4.3 million, with the majority of our communities foreign born. India is one of the world’s most frequent sponsors of family-based immigration. Deep cuts to sponsorships under the RAISE Act would eliminate 70 percent of green cards from India, thus making reuniting families a burdensome if not impossible task for growing South Asian American communities that already struggle under a broken immigration system.
Under the RAISE Act, the President’s own grandfather, who entered the United States from Bavaria without English skills, listing his occupation as “none” and working as a barber’s apprentice, would not have been allowed into the country.
Regardless if the RAISE Act actually passes, it definitively advances the administration’s hostile campaign against immigrants. The President has consistently stated that he wants “people to come into our country legally. I want to have a big fat beautiful open door.” Yet the administration continues to shut that door with policies like the RAISE Act, “Muslim Bans,” walls, and raids.
Even before the “Muslim Ban” officially began last month, its impact had already been felt: visa issuances to the six banned countries had already plummeted 55 percent this year compared to last year.
Just this week the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and ACLU sued the State Department on behalf of individuals from the banned countries who were denied diversity visas, had their diversity visa applications stalled after being selected for interviews, or been approved for diversity visas just to be placed into administrative processing or have their visas revoked altogether. Continuing a discriminatory visa issuance system at any level is unacceptable.
Additionally, White House policies have sanctioned discrimination and targeted immigrants, specifically South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans. The administration has validated and encouraged xenophobia through its consistent barrage of discriminatory policies and inflammatory rhetoric, leading to an increasingly hostile national climate.
Since the presidential election, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) has documented 135 incidents of hate violence aimed at our communities, which we know is only the tip of the iceberg. These include the deadly February shooting of two Indian nationals in Kansas by a gunman screaming “get out of my country.”
Days later a Sikh man was shot on his driveway in Washington State while told to “go back to your country.” In May, two men in Portland were stabbed to death while attempting to stop a noted white supremacist from verbally attacking a Muslim passenger on a train. In July, a Muslim family in Long Island, New York received a series of threatening messages in their mailbox reading the “KKK Hate Muslims, We will kill you, Jesus loves you.”
The administration has been silent in the face of these tragedies, but continues to tweet in all caps on the dangers of immigrants entering the country, including missives stating, “In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!”
The collusion between our executive and legislative branches to criminalize and diminish immigrant communities by punishing sanctuary cities, funding the construction of a border wall, and now introducing an updated RAISE Act must stop.
Congress needs to step up to the plate. Our nation must support all forms of immigration, welcome refugees, promote sanctuary cities, pass the DREAM Act, and remember the reality of our country’s rich history: one that sees immigrants, regardless of their skin color, wealth, or religion, as fundamental to American life.
Suman Raghunathan is Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national civil rights and racial justice organization.
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