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Here's the biggest problem with Trump's plan to slash immigration

  • The RAISE Act proposes to slash immigration by nearly 50 percent.
  • The bill would radically reshape America's immigration system – for the worse.
  • The bill would slow American entrepreneurialism, dangerously alter our demographics and betray America's core value of diversity.

There will be a flurry of flak hitting the new immigration policy endorsed by the White House. President Donald Trump announced yesterday that he supported legislation that would drastically slash legal immigration to the United States by up to fifty percent in the coming decade.

The bill known as the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia) would end the visa diversity lottery that allocates 50,000 visas each year, limit refugees to 50,000 per year, and institute a skill based formula for determining whether to allow immigrants to enter our country.

In sum, the bill would radically reshape America's immigration system – for the worse. The bill should be opposed for three reasons: it's bad for business, demographics, and our "melting pot" culture.

First, the bill would further slow American entrepreneurialism. The number of startups in America is at a forty-year low. Immigrants are inherent risk takers, having left behind the familiarity of their homeland for the possibility of success in the United States. America's workforce is 15 percent composed of immigrants, yet they make up about 25 percent of entrepreneurs, and they account for about 25 percent of patent filings.

Some 3.6 million workers are employed at Fortune 500 companies started by immigrants.These companies include Google, co-founded by Sergey Brin from Russia; eBay, founded by Pierre Omidyar from France; and even AT&T, founded by Alexander Graham Bell from Scotland.

These startup founders may never have passed this skill-based test that the RAISE Act mandates. Such a test would have a chilling effect on overall immigration, at a time when America needs more risk takers.

To be sure, a meritocratic system has appeal, and those who support the RAISE Act cite the fact that Canada and Australia already employ such a skill based system. But these countries already accept more than twice the number of immigrants than the United States, on a per capita basis. If a skill-based policy could become part of a compassionate immigration policy, that would be both rational and in keeping with America's moral idealism. But there's little chance of that in the current anti-immigration climate.

"Some 3.6 million workers are employed at Fortune 500 companies started by immigrants.These companies include Google, co-founded by Sergey Brin from Russia; eBay, founded by Pierre Omidyar from France; and even AT&T, founded by Alexander Graham Bell from Scotland."

Second, the bill would dangerously alter our demographics. In short, America needs more workers. With Baby Boomers entering retirement, immigrants will play "the primary role in the future growth of the working-age population," according to a Pew Research study.

Remarkably, almost 90 percent of the nation's population growth over the next fifty years will come from immigrants and their children. In order for us to remain competitive in the global economy, and to meet our obligations, we need a younger, more vibrant workforce. This bill would reduce the number of immigrants, just when we need them the most.

Third, the bill betrays America's core value of diversity. The immigration hawks defend their position by claiming to benefit blue-collar workers born in this country while portraying immigrants as a drag on the economy.

To keep these arguments afloat, a constant stream of distortion is needed, and when economists provide data showing the net economic impact of immigration is positive, immigration hawks fall back on the stereotype of drug dealers and rapists that Trump proclaimed the first day he declared his candidacy.

The bill chips away at America's historic role as a refuge for "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore," as it says on the Statue of Liberty. Demonizing the most oppressed is a shameful repudiation of American values - no surprise from this administration.

We are witnessing a familiar cycle in American history, where waves of anti-immigrant feeling overwhelm the basic fact that each of us is a descendant of immigrants. Our attitudes are schizoid, and yet looking back, no previous anti-immigrant outcry has added luster or honor to this country. The immigrant story is the American story.

Commentary by Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal. Chopra is the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and a pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Sehgal is a New York Times bestselling author. He is a former vice president at JPMorgan Chase, multi-Grammy Award winner and U.S. Navy veteran. Chopra and Sehgal are co-creators (with Paul Avgerinos) of Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, a book of thirty-four poems and album of twelve songs inspired by American immigrants.

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