Georgia’s Sen. David Perdue and Donald Trump today announced the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee RAISE Act, the latest attempt by the Trump administration to promote xenophobic policies.
With the explicit goal of cutting overall immigration by half and capping limits on refugees able to get permanent residency to 50,000 per year, this RAISE Act builds on an identically named policy floated by Sen. Perdue along with Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton earlier this year. Sen. Cotton is also a key sponsor of the newer version.
In his official remarks, Trump relies on racist tropes to promote the policy and attempts to pit different groups of people of color against each other. While Sen. Perdue made statements that are just untrue and paint immigrants in a negative light.
I reached out to Satyam Barakoti, the Georgia Director for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), about the RAISE Act and the remarks these leaders made. NAPAWF is a group dedicated to addressing social justice and human rights issues impacting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls in the U.S.
In an effort to create negative beliefs about immigrants, Sen. Perdue makes the claim that, “Over 50 percent of our households of legal immigrants today participate in our social welfare system.”
Except, as Barakoti points out, this isn’t true.
“The things I take issue with, even on first blush, are the claim they are making that immigrant line up for welfare as soon as they get a green card. Legal immigrants to the United States are not eligible for unemployment and social security benefits – benefits that they pay into, much less be eligible for public welfare system,” Baraokit said.
“Second, even though green card holders are eligible for public benefits, majority of them hesitate to access them because when they apply for their citizenship, the fact that they have utilized a public benefit that they were eligible for, is used against their ‘eligibility for citizenship,’” she added.
Perdue’s statement seems to be based off of a debunked study from the conservative Center for Immigration Studies that makes a similar claim. Simply put: immigrants with legal status are not draining social safety net systems, as Perdue’s comment would have you believe.
Frances McBrayer, the chair of the Coalition of Refugee Serving Agencies, (CRSA) was also critical of the measure. The CRSA is a Georgia-based organization that advocates for policies that are welcoming to refugees and immigrants, and work to highlight the many contributions that immigrants and refugees bring to this state.
“The RAISE Act’s efforts to restrict immigration paths that reunite families, restrict refugee admissions, and prioritize only those who have had the opportunity to receive higher education sends the wrong message to our refugee and immigrant neighbors here in the United States and to the world,” McBrayer told Better Georgia.
Trump made it clear that this measure is a fulfillment of a campaign promise to limit immigration, and he’s found a champion in Georgia’s Sen. David Perdue, to try to push that policy goal over the finish line.