"Many U.S. employers today are complaining they can't find workers with the skills they need, regarding business expansion," Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the international affairs-focused Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a blog post. "The United States is already losing highly skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants to other countries that are eager to open their doors to the immigrants this country is discouraging (and despite its focus on 'merit-based' immigration, the RAISE Act would do nothing to help here)."
Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller defended the legislation during a news conference last week, saying its passage would, among other things, put "upward pressure on wages" and "help prevent displacement of U.S. workers."
Research has been mixed on the degree to which immigrants in the U.S. have impacted wages. A comprehensive study published earlier this year by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine noted that certain demographics – namely, teenagers, unskilled workers and those without high school degrees – were more susceptible than others to cuts in working hours and wages as a result of immigration.
But the report also described immigrants as "integral to the nation's economic growth." And Alden argued last week that turning around Americans' depressed or stagnant wages isn't as simple as reducing the number of immigrants allowed into the country.
"Wage stagnation has multiple and overlapping causes that are maddeningly hard to disentangle – automation, trade and import competition, the weakening of unions, poor enforcement of labor laws, the shrinking real minimum wage, outsourcing of investment by large corporations, the growing returns to the highly educated and, yes, competition from large numbers of immigrants, especially for Americans with only a high school education or less," he said. "The RAISE Act is just the latest version of Trump's penchant for simple solutions to hard problems."
He also warned that Trump's support of the bill "blithely ignores" the potential downsides of so drastically restricting immigration. One of those downsides could be a drop in job-creating businesses, as the National Academies study highlighted other research that showed 11 percent of immigrants and 9.6 percent of natives owned their own businesses between 2006 and 2010.
Still, others have objected to the RAISE Act on humanitarian grounds. Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, called the bill a "radical and alarming departure from America's longstanding history of welcoming and embracing the diversity and family reunification values that give us our moral and economic advantage in the world."
The Rev. Joe Vasquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, also described the RAISE Act as "discriminatory legislation" in a statement last week. If the legislation had "been in place generations ago, many of the very people who built and defended this nation would have been excluded," he said.
Yet supporters argue alleged drawbacks of the bill have been overstated and that family complication aren't necessarily a high priority for the U.S. economy. Larry Kudlow, a senior contributor to CNBC and founder of economic advisory outfit Kudlow & Co., advocated for the "skills-based, merit-based system" introduced by the RAISE Act during an appearance Thursday on CNBC's "Power Lunch."