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Trump to unveil immigration plan Thursday calling for new merit-based points system

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Trump to unveil immigration plan Thursday calling for new merit-based points system
by Steven Nelson
May 15, 2019 04:00 PM



President Trump Thursday will unveil a detailed new vision for legislation overhauling the U.S. legal immigration system, rewarding skills and education as part of a new points system.

The reform would radically change the makeup of lawful immigrants but would keep the overall volume steady at around 1.1 million every year.
"If you look at our immigration system, it's basically a coat of paint on top of a coat of paint on top of a coat of paint — what we want to do is sand it down," a senior administration official told about two dozen reporters at the White House on Wednesday.

The outline of the package was presented privately to most Republican senators over lunch Tuesday but is likely to face long odds in the Democrat-held House. The Trump plan does not attempt to resolve the status of young adults who have work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is pending Supreme Court review and is a Democratic priority, and it does not propose changes to temporary guest worker visas.

Trump will describe the plan in a speech, but the the White House has not said where the speech will be.

Under the Trump plan, the share of legal immigrants permitted entry based on job skills would rise from 12% to 57%. Family bonds as a justification for legal entry would fall from 66% to 33%. Asylum and diversity admissions would fall from 22% to 10%.

The plan calls for elimination of the diversity lottery system, that currently admits about 55,000 people a year from underrepresented countries, and the streamlining of the asylum system. Family unification will prioritize spousal and parental relationships, another long-held Trump priority.

The proposal calls for three high-skilled immigrant categories, recognizing extraordinary talent, professional and specialized vocations, and exceptional students. Applicants in each category would gain points if they achieve certain benchmarks, such as passing U.S. civics and English proficiency tests, a health screen, and a criminal background check.

The points system would also reward offers of employment, youth, and educational and vocational certifications. There additionally would be points awarded for "diversity" to those from countries with historically low rates of immigration, though that qualification alone would not allow for entry.

"We think this is all very pro-immigrant, moving away from the Byzantine bureaucratic system that we have today and instead laying out very clear objectives and metrics as a country. You want to come to the U.S.? Here are the markers you have to hit, and we think they are all pretty attainable," one official told reporters.

Officials briefing reporters said U.S. wages would rise overall in response to higher-skill immigrants who earn higher wages, rather than introduce new competition to the middle class.

"High-skill people tend to be complementary to low-skill people," an official said, citing White House calculations that found the reforms would "lift the wages for everyone," with the possible exception of engineers, whose wages "may go down a smidge."

Officials did not provide specific details on proposed changes to asylum processes, though they emphasized rapid adjudication of valid claims.
They also did not provide a breakdown of how the changes would alter the nationality of legal immigrants.

It's unclear how soon the legislative proposal would be introduced in Congress, or who would do it.

"Right now this is the Trump plan, but we are hoping it will become the Republican plan," an official said. "This isn't a Jared Kushner proposal, it isn't a Stephen Miller proposal, it isn't a Kevin Hassett proposal. It is a Donald Trump proposal. And we've worked very hard to take what he wanted in an immigration plan and to fill in the details."

Asked by a reporter if the outline was not merely Trump's immigration platform for 2020, the official said, "If [Democrats] don't want to engage, it can be part of the election."