The RAISE Act Takes a Dagger To The Immigration Values That Make Our Country Strong

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

In what can only be described as a stunning assault on our nation’s founding principles and some of our most hopeful and aspirational values, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a bill that would make drastic cuts to family-based immigration as well as transform the employment-based system.

This bill is void of compassion as it seeks to keep families permanently separated and limits the number of refugees to a statutory cap 50,000 per year while also eliminating the President’s ability to adjust refugee admissions in response to world crises and in pursuit of diplomatic and humanitarian goals. This is especially cruel considering the overwhelming number of people currently displaced around the world today and the large percentage that are children.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service said in a statement:

If passed, the RAISE Act would drastically, and permanently, reduce the amount of refugees the U.S. could protect each year through the U.S. refugee program, destroy the life-saving family-based visa program, cause families to be permanently separated without hope of being together, slash legal immigration in half to devastating economic effect, and move our immigration system to a solely “merit” based system that would, in reality, discriminate against hard working immigrants who contribute every single day to our communities, our economy and our nation.


“Immigrants and refugees enrich and strengthen the United States,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS president and CEO. “Our faith demands that we stand with vulnerable immigrants and refugees, especially in a moment when our world is facing a refugee crisis on a scale never before seen. We have over 65 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, over 22 million refugees, half of whom are children. Our country can, and should, not turn a blind eye to those in need.”

In a statement from World Relief CEO Tim Breene highlights the importance of the social capital immigrants bring to the country along with importance of family reunification for their ability to thrive and for society to flourish.

“We must consider not just the economic capital but social capital that immigrants bring when they come to the United States,” said Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief. “The notion of severely limiting legal immigration goes against the historic American values of freedom and opportunity. We’re pro-security, pro-economy, pro-family. This bill, however, significantly hampers the reunification of families in the United States which are the building blocks of our society. We must recognize that families are critical to the flourishing of any society and make every effort to reunite families in order for immigrants to find full stability and flourishing once in the United States. Any efforts to undermine immigrant family unity ultimately undermines their ability to thrive,” continued Breene.

This statement from World Relief concludes with a powerful reminder of our country’s immigrant and refugee history and the need for our country to continue this welcome of the world’s people:

“When a nation of immigrants and refugees forsakes its past, it gives up its future. We cannot lose the heart of compassion that gave so many of our own grandparents hope and refuge. The world needs American leadership; America needs the dignity, beauty and ingenuity of the peoples of the world. This is not a conversation about us versus them,” said Scott Arbeiter, President of World Relief.

Hartke, Breene, and Arbeiter are right in their condemnation of this bill and in naming the harms that it would do to our country and the values that at the core of our founding and our continued thriving as a country. More they call our attention to the vital contributions and the enrichment to our society that immigrants and refugees bring. And they guide us not to turn our backs on the rich history and deep roots of our values of freedom and opportunity that paved a welcome for our ancestors.

One wonders if these two Senators and our President have forgotten the welcome that the United States aspires to as poetically penned by Emma Lazarus and affixed to the base of the Statue of Liberty, where her torch lit the way for immigrants arriving from northern, southern, and eastern Europe.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

If Lady Liberty is truly the Mother of Exiles, then this great land is truly the home of everyone who has been forced from their homeland whether by war or famine, persecution or economic hardship. This land then is a haven like the compassionate arms of a mother reaching out and holding close, the world’s tired and poor, the world’s masses yearning to breathe free, the world’s wretched refuse, and all the homeless and tempest-tossed.

As our world faces an unprecedented refugee crisis, we must stand with the vulnerable immigrants and refugees, especially the children. And for all the lauding of family values, especially among conservatives like Cotton and Perdue reuniting families separated by oceans should be a priority.

We are a great country because of the dignity, beauty and ingenuity of people from around the world who have come to live here. We must continue to pave a compassionate welcome for the world’s people to this land of freedom and opportunity.