Lady Liberty’s Promise Matters to Immigration Law

By Ryan J. Suto 

(Re-published from The Hill | Aug. 4, 2017) President Trump and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue’s (R-Ga.) White House announcement of the new version of the RAISE Act, a bill that aims to lower legal immigration to the U.S. by more than 40 percentby turning away non-English speakers and low-skilled or unskilled immigrants, flies in the face of American ideals and is simply bad policy.

Miller’s dismissal of the reference to the Statue of Liberty in a policy discussion shows a narrow understanding of the framing of ‘American tradition.’” 

The bill itself is problematic first because it awards points for “English-language ability,” which will discriminate against millions of hard-working and well-meaning individuals from non-English speaking countries. This preference reflects the broader demographic goals implicit in the Trump administration’s other policies, such as the wall on the Mexican border and Muslim ban.

Second, the bill makes no economic sense. The Bipartisan Policy Center stated, “The RAISE Act’s goal of reducing legal immigration is a threat to the U.S. economy and would place additional strains on the Social Security system by reducing the size of the labor force.”

Later that day, White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller answered questions about the new RAISE Act from the Brady briefing room. At the start of a heated exchange, CNN’s Jim Acosta, a first-generation Cuban American, invoked “American tradition” in challenging the law, referencing the Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus,” that appears on the monument: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

In response, Miller stated, “The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of Liberty enlightening the world, it’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later is not part of the actual Statue of Liberty.” During the exchange with Acosta, Miller rhetorically asked what number of immigrants would meet the “Statue of Liberty poem’s law of the land.”

Miller’s dismissal of the reference to the Statue of Liberty in a policy discussion shows a narrow understanding of the framing of “American tradition.” That tradition includes more than just what is found in dusty law books, but also what is called meta-doctrine. Meta-doctrine is composed of the concepts and prescriptions that provide structure and limitations to specific legal doctrines. They form the spirit of the country and define our goals and how we see ourselves …

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INSCT CAS in Postconflict Reconstruction alumnus Ryan J. Suto (JD/MS/MAIR ’13) is Government Relations Manager for the Arab American Institute, an organization that encourages the direct participation of Arab Americans in political and civic life.