US President Donald Trump has unveiled a plan to reform the nation’s immigration system, intended to favor high-skilled immigrants and restrict family-based migration. President Trump unveiled an outline for reshaping how immigrants are admitted into the country — seeking to promote a more comprehensive approach to immigration ahead of a reelection campaign in which Democrats plan to portray his hard-line approach at the border as racist.
The new proposal, an effort led primarily by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, appears destined for the congressional dustbin, with no clear strategy from the White House to turn it into law and essentially no support from Democrats who control half of Capitol Hill.
Currently, about two-thirds of the 1.1 million people allowed to migrate to the nation each year are given green cards granting permanent residency because of family ties. Trump’s plan, which does not add protections to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients, is expected to draw little support from Democrats who have railed against the administration’s lack of support for so-called “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States as children by undocumented parents.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed the proposal as “condescending,” signaling that Democrats would not support legislation that does not include a pathway to citizenship. “They say family is without merit — are they saying most of the people that come to the US in the history of our country are without merit, because they don’t have an engineering degree,” Pelosi asked at her weekly press conference on Thursday.
But the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill have emphasized that the plan — few details of which have been publicly released — is primarily to showcase the kind of immigration that Trump and Republicans can support ahead of next year’s elections.
“We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages and safety of American workers first,” Trump said from the White House Rose Garden in front of an audience of Cabinet officials and GOP lawmakers. “Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker. It’s just common sense.”
The president’s bid to sketch out a vision that could appeal beyond his conservative base represented a potentially risky shift at a time when he is eyeing a tough reelection campaign in which he believes immigration will play a major role.
Speaking at the White House, Trump on Thursday said that his plan aims to create a “fair, modern and lawful system of immigration for the US”, Xinhua news agency reported.
“The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 per cent to 57 per cent, and we’d like to even see if we can go higher,” Trump said. “This will bring us in line with other countries and make us globally competitive.”
“We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country. But a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill,” said the president, noting that immigrants, under the plan, will also be “required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission.”
According to the White House, the proposal would tighten family-based migration to focus on allowing nuclear families who migrate to the US, rather than extended family members.
The effort, championed by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, also focuses on beefing up border security. Trump has claimed that the nation is being overrun by migrants and asylum seekers and sought to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico by declaring a national emergency so as to bypass Congress and unlock billions of US dollars in funding.
The new White House proposal does not change the net level of green cards allocated each year, but rather prioritizes high-skilled workers over those with family members who are U.S. citizens. It would allow applicants to rack up eligibility based on factors such as age, ability to speak English, job offers and educational background under what Trump called a new “Build America” visa.
But the proposal also sidesteps some major components of the nation’s immigration system that can be far more complex and controversial to resolve, such as the fate of the estimated 11 million immigrants without legal status and visas for temporary, low-skilled workers — issues that have divided the Republican Party and pit the business community against labor unions.