President Trump’s proposed Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (Raise) Act, currently pending in Congress, will put into place a poorly designed points-based system that would limit the number of working-age immigrants that Maine needs to fill jobs.
The proposal would halve the number of lawful, permanent immigrants coming into the U.S. each year and limit the ability of their relatives to join them. It would also cap the admittance of refugees escaping persecution.
Maine’s demographic problems are nothing new to businesses all across the state. Taking action to restrict our population growth will only hold our economy back further. If we want to reverse this trend, then we need to encourage an inclusive economy that doesn’t let immigrant families fall through the cracks and welcomes new Mainers.
This is not an #AlternativeFact: Immigration has a net positive effect on the American economy.
For Maine, specifically, we need immigration to counterbalance our plateaued and even declining population. This was clearly on display earlier this year, as Maine’s summer businesses recently lobbied the Trump Administration to help address the shortage of seasonal workers with more temporary visas for immigrant workers.
Source: MECEP analysis of US Census Bureau, Estimates of the Components of Population Change, 2010-15
Aside from helping with our demographic issues, new Mainers tend to be better-educated and younger than Maine’s general population. In addition, the rate of small business ownership tends to be higher among minorities and immigrants than Maine’s population overall. This is the kind of entrepreneurial spirit on which America was founded and built.
These are exactly the kind of people Maine needs to attract and retain if it is to build a robust economy in the face of an aging and shrinking population and workforce. Immigrants bolster both the quantity and quality of Maine’s labor force—the foundation of any strong economy.
The “Raise” Act does little to address the concerns of blue-collar workers and their families and points the country in the wrong direction. It unnecessarily fans the flames of racial and ethnic tensions in an already heavily divided country. And it does nothing to comprehensively improve and reform our immigration system.
We need the kind of population boost that new Mainers offer to sustain and grow Maine’s rural economy. Coupled with increased public investment in education, job training, and vital safety net programs that help sustain our working families, we can put Maine back on course to a strong economy and shared prosperity for all Mainers.