Trump backs tough bor­der lim­its

He sup­ports a Se­nate bid for a ‘merit-based’ im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that fa­vors those with ed­u­ca­tion and skills.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Brian Ben­nett

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump is push­ing for­ward with his prom­ise to take a harder line on le­gal as well as il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, en­dors­ing on Wed­nes­day a Se­nate pro­posal to slash the num­ber of for­eign­ers ad­mit­ted to the United States while fa­vor­ing those with cer­tain ed­u­ca­tion lev­els and skills.

Although the pro­posal would not quite mean the “big­gest change in 50 years” to the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, as Trump de­scribed it, its pro­vi­sions would up­end decades of pol­icy and fun­da­men­tally chal­lenge the na­tion’s open­ness to im­mi­grants as sym­bol­ized by the Statue of Lib­erty.

The bill faces dim prospects in Congress, how­ever. Nearly all Democrats and a siz­able num­ber of Repub­li­cans are op­posed. But Trump’s em­brace of the leg­is­la­tion, from Repub­li­can Sens. Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas and David Per­due of Georgia, is in keep­ing with a core prom­ise of his cam­paign and re­flects his in­ten­si­fied em­pha­sis in re­cent weeks to ap­peal to his core sup­port­ers.

The cur­rent U.S. im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem fa­vors unit­ing fam­ily mem­bers with rel­a­tives al­ready in the coun­try and was built on the premise that any per­son, re­gard­less of what lan­guage they speak, how much ed­u­ca­tion or money they have, can seek to come to the United States.

Un­der the bill, ad­mis­sions would be based on a point sys­tem that would give for­eign ap­pli­cants a higher score if they speak English, have a job offer that pays above the me­dian wage, can fi­nan­cially sup­port them­selves and have skills that “can con­trib­ute to our econ­omy,” Trump said.

He called it a “mer­it­based” sys­tem sim­i­lar to that used in Australia and Canada.

“For decades, the United States was op­er­ated and has op­er­ated a very low-skill im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, is­su­ing record num­bers of green cards to low-wage im­mi­grants,” Trump said, an­nounc­ing his sup­port for the pro­posal at the White House with Cot­ton and Per­due, who drafted the leg­is­la­tion to­gether with ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials.

“This pol­icy has placed

sub­stan­tial pres­sure on Amer­i­can work­ers, tax­pay­ers and com­mu­nity re­sources,” he said.

At a time when the to­tal of refugees glob­ally ex­ceeds the lev­els of World War II, the pro­posal would limit the num­ber given law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dence each year to 50,000.

The an­nual Di­ver­sity Visa lot­tery would be elim­i­nated. Each year, that lot­tery se­lects 50,000 win­ners, many from coun­tries in Africa and Eastern Europe, who along with their spouses and mi­nor chil­dren can ob­tain green cards and work in the United States.

The pro­posal “ends chain mi­gra­tion” of ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers, Trump said, by giv­ing pref­er­ence only to the spouses and mi­nor chil­dren of le­gal res­i­dents, but not adult chil­dren and other rel­a­tives.

That change, he added, re­flects his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “com­pas­sion for strug­gling Amer­i­can fam­i­lies that de­serve an im­mi­grant sys­tem that puts their needs first.”

The pro­posal has been praised by hard-line im­mi­gra­tion groups, in­clud­ing Num­ber­sUSA and the Fed­er­a­tion of Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, that ad­vo­cate for lower im­mi­gra­tion lev­els. But im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cacy groups are op­posed, as are many econ­o­mists who say the na­tion, with an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and low fer­til­ity rate, should be en­cour­ag­ing an in­flux of younger work­ers to spur eco­nomic growth.

Prospects for the pro­posed im­mi­gra­tion over­haul are not good. Any such changes would re­quire sup­port from mod­er­ate Repub­li­can se­na­tors such as John McCain of Ari­zona and Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, and many Se­nate Democrats op­pose mak­ing par­tial changes to im­mi­gra­tion law with­out cre­at­ing a path­way to le­gal sta­tus for im­mi­grants who ar­rived in the coun­try il­le­gally and put down roots.

Gra­ham wrote on Twit­ter that the pro­posal would be dev­as­tat­ing to the South Carolina econ­omy, which re­lies heav­ily on an im­mi­grant work­force in the agri­cul­tural and tourism in­dus­tries.

For Trump, sup­port­ing the re­duc­tion in over­all le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is a re­ver­sal. He has re­peat­edly said he doesn’t want to re­duce the to­tal num­ber of im­mi­grants ad­mit­ted each year, yet the pro­posal by Cot­ton and Per­due would cut the an­nual in­flux of im­mi­grants from the cur­rent rate of 1 mil­lion per year to about 500,000.

Trump has also been re­luc­tant to end the De­ferred Action for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, started by Pres­i­dent Obama, which pro­vides work au­tho­riza­tions to im­mi­grants brought to the U.S. il­le­gally as chil­dren. Trump called the pro­gram un­con­sti­tu­tional dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, but also has ex­pressed sym­pa­thy to­ward peo­ple who are in this coun­try il­le­gally through no fault of their own and were raised here.

White House se­nior ad­vi­sor Stephen Miller, when asked whether the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was try­ing to change the prom­ise en­shrined by the Emma Lazarus poem on the base of the Statue of Lib­erty, said, “The poem you were re­fer­ring to was added later and was not part of the orig­i­nal Statue of Lib­erty.”

Miller, like Trump, said the re­stric­tions on lowskilled en­trants were nec­es­sary to guard against tak­ing jobs from Amer­i­cans and driv­ing down wages. Yet he de­fended Trump’s use of tem­po­rary for­eign work­ers on his re­sort prop­er­ties.

“This bill of course doesn’t deal with guest work­ers and tem­po­rary non­im­mi­grant visas,” Miller said.

He said that Trump de­fended his business prac­tices dur­ing the cam­paign by say­ing that “as a busi­ness­man my re­spon­si­bil­ity is to op­er­ate by the laws of the United States as they ex­ist.”

But, Miller con­tin­ued, “He said, as pres­i­dent, my re­spon­si­bil­ity is to pass laws that make sure we have an im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that pri­or­i­tizes Amer­i­can work­ers.”

Trump has not pro­posed to change the pro­gram that his com­pany has long used.

Zach Gib­son Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

PRES­I­DENT TRUMP with GOP Sens. Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas, left, and David Per­due of Georgia, who wrote the im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion. Nearly all Democrats and a siz­able num­ber of Repub­li­cans op­pose the bill.

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