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ESLINTG 100
Essay #1 – Take Home: Article #1 Summarize this one
“Can a Decades-Old Immigration Proposal Pass Under Trump?”
By Priscilla Alvarez / The Atlantic / August 21, 2017
1
When President Trump publicly backed a bill to curb legal immigration, he placed a
decades-old idea—that until now had been largely sidelined—back into the mainstream.
2
Earlier this month, Trump threw his weight behind a modified version of the Reforming
American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, a measure first introduced by Republican
Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue in February that would cut legal immigration to the
United States by 50 percent over a decade. “Finally, the reforms in the RAISE Act will help
ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will
achieve the American Dream,” Trump said in an announcement from the White House.
3
Immigration-restrictionist groups immediately praised Trump’s endorsement. “Seeing the
President standing with the bill’s sponsors at the White House gives hope to the tens of millions
of struggling Americans in stagnant jobs or outside the labor market altogether,” said Roy Beck,
the president of NumbersUSA, in a statement. “President Trump is to be praised for moving
beyond the easy issue of enforcement,” wrote Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the
Center for Immigration Studies, in The National Interest.
4
Cotton and Perdue’s bill targets the family reunification component of the 1965
Immigration Act by giving visa preference only to immediate family and eliminating the
diversity visa lottery, which allots a certain number of visas to countries “with historically low
rates of immigration to the United States.” It also proposes a merit-based immigration system,
which gives preference to highly-skilled and educated individuals. After 10 years, the measure
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/can-a-decades-old-immigration-proposal-pass-under-trump/537138/
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projects, immigration levels would drop to nearly 540,000 a year, a 50 percent drop from the
current rate.
5
Trump, who made cracking down on immigration a cornerstone of his campaign, has
presented immigration restrictionists with the best opportunity to reduce legal immigration in a
generation. The RAISE Act itself is reminiscent of recommendations made in the 1990s to
overhaul the U.S. immigration system in order to reduce the number of immigrants in the United
States.
6
White House aides have been working with the two Republican senators on the
legislation, as has Republican Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, a key player during
attempts to change the legal immigration system in the 1990s. “I have been in discussions with
Members of Congress and the Administration since President Trump took office in January,”
Smith told me in an email. “I worked with Senators Cotton and [Perdue] in crafting the RAISE
Act.”
7
By the 1990s, the United States was reckoning with a significant uptick of immigrants.
The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, a sweeping bill that opened the doors to immigrants
from around the world, and a 1986 law that granted citizenship to undocumented immigrants in
the United States, both contributed to an influx in the foreign-born American population. Then,
in 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, which increased the number of
legal immigrants allowed entry to the United States. Notably, the legislation also set up the
Commission on Legal Immigration Reform to examine U.S. policies. Barbara Jordan, a former
Democratic congresswoman from Texas, headed the panel.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/can-a-decades-old-immigration-proposal-pass-under-trump/537138/
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8
“The whole commission was not about reducing immigration per se. It was about what is
the right level of immigration, so that we’re not disproportionally harming America’s most
vulnerable workers,” said Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations at
NumbersUSA.
9
In 1995, the panel recommended cutting legal immigration by one-third, so that the U.S.
would allow in 700,000 a year and later, 550,000 immigrants a year—a major drop from the
current level at the time, 830,000 a year. The commission suggested limiting preferences for the
extended family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who could previously apply for a visa
under the 1965 Immigration Act, and basing entry on job skills.
10
To some degree, the recommendations were reflective of the national discourse at the
time, which focused on how foreign-born workers were affecting the economy. On the one end,
the labor movement was opposed to immigration, seeing it as a disadvantage to native-born
workers, while on the other, corporations expressed support for amnesty because they employed
skilled immigrants. “There were a lot of undocumented immigrants in the United States who had
overstayed their visas and who in fact [were] holding very responsible jobs in science,
technology, who were entrepreneurial, and moreover, better-educated class of immigrant, which
was a real plus for the high-tech firms,” said Alan Kraut, a history professor at American
University.
11
This put the Democratic Party, which has by and large been pro-immigration and pro-
labor, in a bind. “In Clinton’s case, he felt he could shoot up the middle and retain loyalty within
the American labor movement and also loyalty on the part of the various immigration groups
because after all, where else could they turn,” Kraut said. But there was another shift happening
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in the Democratic Party—the demographic change sparked by the 1965 law was altering the
party’s base. In 1992, for example, 76 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters were
non-Hispanic whites compared to 57 percent today, according to the Pew Research Center.
12
The proposals, and the Clinton administration’s embrace of it, received pushback from
immigrant advocacy groups and some Republicans, who argued that reducing legal immigration
would in fact hinder the economy. “Most immigrants today are not sponges off the system; they
are hard-working, and they carry with them that work ethic that made America great,” thenHouse Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Republican from Texas, told his constituents.
13
Still, the commission’s findings had reinforced Smith’s proposals on legal immigration,
Jenks said. Smith introduced legislation that sought to place greater emphasis on skills and scrap
the diversity visa program, similar to what the RAISE Act aims to do today. Meanwhile, in the
Senate, Al Simpson introduced a piece of legislation that, like Smith’s, aimed to crackdown on
illegal immigration and curb legal immigration. In the end, provisions on legal immigration
failed to pass in both chambers—leaving the Clinton administration with a choice about whether
to support new restrictions on illegal immigration.
14
“The administration told the Congress that the president would veto a bill that included
the legal immigration reductions,” said Doris Meissner, the former commissioner of the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service. “They were left with a dilemma—the Congress—of
whether they wanted to try to pass a bill that had the legal immigration reductions in it and face
the possibility of a presidential veto or whether they were going to do what was called ‘split the
bill’ and deal with just illegal immigration—and that’s what they decided to do because the
administration was willing to cooperate with that.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/can-a-decades-old-immigration-proposal-pass-under-trump/537138/
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15
The pressures from outside groups might have swayed the president’s decision, Meissner
said. The New York Times reported at the time that “the proposals drew criticism from a wide
range of business, ethnic and religious groups.” Kraut added: “Clinton understood, as the
Democrats understood that came before them, that you must have the ethnic vote. And for him,
the growing strength of the Latino vote and the growing strength of the Asian vote and the
growing strength of other groups like that necessitated that he have a reasonably pro-immigration
stance.”
16
The White House is playing a significant role in thrusting the proposal into the
mainstream.
17
Since then, attempts to reform the U.S. immigration system have faltered in the face of
heated political opposition to the legalization of undocumented immigrants. George W. Bush’s
immigration reform bill in 2007 would have provided legal status for millions of undocumented
immigrants living in the U.S., set up a new guest-worker program, and included a merit-based
system. It died in the Democratic-controlled Senate due to opposition from the right and left.
Barack Obama, who was elected in 2008 on a promise to reform the immigration system, took
his pass in 2013: A group of senators, dubbed the Gang of Eight, drafted bipartisan legislation
that included enforcement measures and offered a pathway to citizenship, but was killed in the
Republican-controlled House. Largely left out of the national dialogue were proposals
to reduce legal immigration.
18
Cotton and Perdue’s bill reintroduces the recommendations made by the Commission on
Immigration Reform and later adopted by Smith in his legislation. “The commission made the
recommendation, as we are today, of admitting individuals with the education, skills and abilities
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that we need in America, and placing less of an emphasis on extended family members,” Smith
said in an email. “These reforms make sure that our immigration policies protect hard-working
Americans.” He added: “If President Clinton hadn’t switched his position several weeks before
the 1996 bill, we would have accomplished legal immigration reform then.”
19
The White House is playing a significant role in thrusting the proposal into the
mainstream. On the day that Trump backed the legislation, top White House adviser Stephen
Miller addressed the proposed changes at a White House briefing. “The effect of this, switching
to a skills-based system and ending unfettered chain migration, would be, over time, you would
cut net migration in half, which polling shows is supported overwhelmingly by the American
people in very large numbers,” he said. The White House has since pushed out a series of
releases highlighting praise for the RAISE Act.
20
“The very fact that it got this kind of high-profile presidential treatment means that this is
an issue that’s not going away,” Krikorian told me.
21
Any changes to legal immigration could have a profound impact on the demographic
makeup of the country. According to the Department of Homeland Security, roughly two-thirds
of immigrants were given green cards because of family connections in the United States in
fiscal year 2017—and approximately 13 percent “obtained status under an employment-based
preference category.” As Tom Gjelten, the author of A Nation of Nations: A Great American
Immigration Story, wrote in The Atlantic: “The key lesson of the 1965 reforms is that social
engineering through the adjustment of immigration policy is no simple matter—and almost any
such effort will produce dramatic, unintended consequences.” That could be the case in
transitioning over to a point system that prioritizes high-skilled immigrants.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/can-a-decades-old-immigration-proposal-pass-under-trump/537138/
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22
Critics of the merit-based system argue that it could hinder the economy by hurting
industries that rely on low-skilled immigrant labor, while some economists say higher-skilled
immigrants could contribute more to the economy.
23
It’s not clear if and when the bill would progress through Congress. For one, lawmakers
plan on taking up tax reform next. And a bill would need 60 votes in the Senate to advance,
meaning it’d have to receive some Democratic support. There’s also no indication that leadership
plans on taking it up; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been mum on the legislation.
Smith, for his part, will introduce a companion bill in the House in September. “My bill will
have the same contours as the Senate bill, but we haven’t finalized every word,” he told me.
24
Just the fact that the proposals have picked up steam again is reassuring for some. “We
had a small window in the mid-1990s because of Barbara Jordan. It was OK to talk about
immigration and reducing it and then that window closed and now we have an opportunity to
have a serious public debate,” Jenks said. There’s no promise, however, that its fate this time
around will be any different.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/can-a-decades-old-immigration-proposal-pass-under-trump/537138/
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ESLINTG 100
Essay #1: Article #2
“How Immigration Became So Controversial:
Does the hot-button issue of 2018 really split the country? Or just the Republican Party?”
By Derek Thompson / The Atlantic / February 2, 2018
1
Immigration seems to be the most prominent wedge issue in America. Senate
Republicans and Democrats shut down the federal government over the treatment of immigrants
brought to the U.S. illegally as children, also known as Dreamers. In his State of the Union
address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump referred to U.S. immigration law as a “broken”
system; one party clapped, the other scowled. This polarized reaction reflects a widening divide
among voters, as Democrats are now twice as likely as Republicans to say immigrants strengthen
the country.
2
These stories and others might make it seem like most Americans are anxious about the
deleterious effects of immigration on America’s economy and culture. But along several
dimensions, immigration has never been more popular in the history of public polling:

The share of Americans calling for lower levels of immigration has fallen from a high of
65 percent in the mid-1990s to just 35 percent, near its record low.

A 2017 Gallup poll found that fears that immigrants bring crime, take jobs from nativeborn families, or damage the budget and overall economy are all at all-time lows.

In the same poll, the percentage of Americans saying immigrants “mostly help” the
economy reached its highest point since Gallup began asking the question in 1993.

A Pew Research poll asking if immigrants “strengthen [the] country with their hard work
and talents” similarly found affirmative responses at an all-time high.
3
But immigration is not a monolithic issue; there is no one immigration question. There
are more like three: How should the United States treat illegal immigrants, especially those
brought to the country as children? Should overall immigration levels be reduced, increased, or
neither? And how should the U.S. prioritize the various groups—refugees, family members,
economic migrants, and skilled workers among them—seeking entry to the country? It’s possible
that most voters don’t disentangle the issues this specifically, and don’t think too much about the
answers to each question. After all, immigration ranks quite low on Americans’ policy
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/why-immigration-divides/552125/
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Essay #1: Article #2
priorities—it’s behind the deficit and tied with the influence of lobbyists—which makes
responses shift along with the positions of presidential candidates, political rhetoric, or polling
language. (You might, for example, get very different answers to questions emphasizing “law
and order” versus the general value of “diversity.”)
4
On the most important immigration question—the “levels” question—it doesn’t seem
quite right to say the issue of immigration divides America. It more clearly divides
Republicans—both from the rest of the country, and from one another. Immigration isolates a
nativist faction of the right in a country that is, overall, growing more tolerant of diversity.
January’s government shutdown is a perfect example. Nearly 90 percent of Americans favor
legal protections for Dreamers, but the GOP’s refusal to extend those protections outside of a
larger deal led to the shutdown of the federal government, anyway.
5
What’s more, immigration pits Republicans against Republicans. On one side are the
hard-line restrictionists, like White House aide Stephen Miller and—depending on the time and
day—Donald Trump. This group favors a wall, rising arrests and deportations for undocumented
workers, and a permanent cut in the number of immigrants that can enter the U.S., particularly (if
you heed the president’s scatological commentary) from Latino or majority-black countries.
Nativism runs deep among Trump’s most ardent supporters. Three-quarters of them say
“building the wall” should be the highest priority of his presidency, while a majority of
Americans say it shouldn’t be a priority at all.
6
But there is another side of the party, epitomized by its reliably pro-immigration donor
class. In 2016, the Chamber of Commerce, a bastion of Reaganite conservatism, released a report
concluding that immigrants “significantly benefit the U.S. economy by creating new jobs and
complementing the skills of the U.S. native workforce.” The Koch Brothers and their influential
political group Americans For Prosperity loudly decried Trump’s immigration plans back in
2015. It wasn’t so long ago that this wing seemed to be the future of the party. The GOP’s “postmortem” report on the 2012 election stated plainly, “We must embrace and champion
comprehensive immigration reform,” and the presidential candidates with the most donor support
in the 2016 election were Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both of whom have supported high levels
of immigration with something like amnesty for undocumented workers.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/why-immigration-divides/552125/
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7
This tension within the Republican Party could be summarized as “ICE versus Inc.” In
early January, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, raided nearly
100 7-Eleven stores across the country and made almost two dozen arrests. Along with the wall,
these agent arrests, up more than 40 percent under Trump, are the clearest manifestation of the
administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. But the Koch brothers, motivated by an
interest in expanding the GOP coalition and providing corporations with cheap labor,
have funded initiatives to attract Latino votes by helping undocumented workers with tax
preparation, driver’s tests, and doctor’s visits. The modern GOP is an awkward political
arrangement, in which pro-immigration corporate libertarians are subsidizing a virulent antiimmigrant movement.
***
8
The immigration issue was never easy. But it hasn’t always been this confusing.
9
For much of the 1990s, the two parties were essentially in lockstep on the issue of
immigration. In 2005, Democratic and Republican voters were 5 percentage points apart in their
favorabilit …
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