Donald Trump to propose merit-based immigration system

Evarado Alatorre
May 16, 2019

President Donald Trump is expected to give a speech on USA immigration policy Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET. Watch live in our player.

According to the media, Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is presenting the plan on Capitol Hill. It faces an uphill battle in Congress, with prospects bleak for an election-season agreement on such a contentious issue.

The plan does not address what to do about the millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally, including hundreds of thousands of young "Dreamers" brought to the U.S.as children - a top priority for Democrats. But with the president up for reelection next year, the White House is making a calculation to put this plan front and center. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to outline the plan before Trump's announcement.

The formula now for who comes to the country is 12% skill-based, 66% with ties to family members and 22% humanitarian, or asylum-seekers. Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would be taken into account.

It also seeks to end the diversity lottery system that grants entry into the USA to about 55,000 people from underrepresented countries every year. But far more would go to exceptional students so they can remain in the country after graduation, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees. The White House is selling the plan as addressing border security and moving toward a merit-based immigration system, which gives preference to highly-skilled and educated individuals. A "four pillars" proposal a year ago fell by the wayside after Republicans failed to get behind corresponding legislation. This time, the White House is taking a more hands-on process, drafting legislative text itself. Trump has been furiously railing against the spike in Central American migrant families trying to enter the country, and he forced a government shutdown in a failed effort to fulfill his 2016 promise to build a southern border wall.

Graham, who rolled out his own proposal Wednesday to address the recent flood of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. -Mexico border, said he had advised Trump to try to cut a new deal with Democrats and believed Trump was open to that.

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John Sanders, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, said on Wednesday that the number of people apprehended at the border since October 1 was almost 520,000, the highest level in a decade.

Under the plan, migrants seeking asylum in the USA would have to make their claims at processing centers in places such as Central American countries and Mexico, not in the U.S. He said his proposal to allow migrant families to be detained longer so they can be deported, to equalize treatment of Central American children with that of Mexican children, and to add more immigration judges matches some of the president's security plans.

"I don't think it's created to get Democratic support as much as it is to unify the Republican Party around border security", Graham said.

"Our goal in the short term is to make sure that we are laying out what the president's policy is in terms of what he's looking for from immigration reform, and we would like to see if we could get the Republican Party to come together on these two pillars, which we think is a very, very logical, very mainstream point of view", said one official. This story will be updated as it develops.

Jill Colvin of the Associated Press wrote this story.

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