Leaving aside his harsh rhetoric against illegal immigration, President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wanted to recruit “great talent” for the country as he announced his most recent plans to reform the residency laws after years of setbacks and stagnation.
“We discriminate geniuses,” Trump said of the current laws, which he said strongly favor family-based immigration. “We discriminate against brilliance. We will not do it once this is approved.”
The new initiative, promoted by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, focuses on border security and on modifying the current system of “green cards” (permanent residence cards for immigrants) in order to favor highly qualified people. with university careers and that already received offers of employment, and not to relatives of those who are already in the United States.
The proposed change to a merit-based system that prioritizes high-level employees would break with the current strategy based largely on the family, which authorities say grants approximately 66% of green cards to people with family members and 12% to people for skills.
The president’s plan, unveiled at a White House ceremony, must still be accepted by his own party – and the Democrats – and he faces a dubious future in the divided Congress. Trump tries to show more flexibility in the subject with a view to the election of 2020.
“Our plan is in favor of the Americans, the immigrants and the workers,” Trump said, adding that it contrasts with the “chaos” that the Democrats support.
“Our proposal fulfills our sacred duty to those who now live here, while ensuring that the United States remains a welcoming country for immigrants who will join us tomorrow,” he added.
For three decades, attempts to reform the immigration system have gone nowhere because of strong partisan divisions. The prospects for an agreement seem particularly weak as the 2020 elections approach, although the plan could give Trump and the Republican Party a proposal to campaign on, even when the Democrats voiced their opposition.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s emphasis on merit-based immigration is “condescending” because families also have merit.
The plan does not address what to do with people living without permission in the United States, including the so-called “dreamers,” the immigrants brought into the country when they were children and one of the priorities for the Democrats. Nor does it reduce overall immigration rates, as many conservative Republicans would like.
In a media briefing Wednesday attended by dozens of journalists, government officials said the plan could create a point-based visa system, similar to that applied by Canada and other countries.
The United States would grant the same number of “green cards” as before, but a much larger number would be given to exceptional students, professionals and people with technical diplomas. Other factors that will be taken into account are age, English proficiency and job offers.
A much smaller number of “green cards” will be granted to people with relatives in the United States. The lottery of visas for diversity, which offers residence to citizens of countries with low historical rates of immigration to the United States, could be eliminated.
The government aims to reform the asylum system that reduces the number of requests that have to be processed and facilitates the deportation of people who do not meet the requirements.
Officials said more details could be announced in the coming weeks.
It is not the first time that the Trump White House has presented an immigration plan. A “four pillars” proposal presented last year failed due to lack of support from Republicans. This time, the presidential residence has assumed a more active role and drafted the text for the legislature.