White House im­mi­gra­tion plan may call for visa panel

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Franco Or­donez

WASH­ING­TON – The White House is near­ing com­ple­tion of a pro­posal to re­vamp the le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that could in­clude the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent blue-rib­bon com­mis­sion that would help de­cide how many fu­ture visas will be al­lo­cated and what kind of work­ers should re­ceive them, ac­cord­ing to two sources fa­mil­iar with the talks.

The draft pro­posal, which fol­lows sev­eral West Wing meet­ings hosted by se­nior adviser Jared Kush­ner with dozens of in­ter­est groups im­por­tant to the Repub­li­can Party, could be pre­sented to Pres­i­dent Trump as early as this week af­ter be­ing ap­proved by key Cab­i­net lead­ers and de­part­ment heads.

“The pro­posal is def­i­nitely mov­ing for­ward,” said a per­son fa­mil­iar with the plans. “It has been ap­proved by a lot of peo­ple who need to sign off on it within the ad­min­is­tra­tion, such as agency heads. Staffers are plan­ning to make a big push for re­forms. They want this to be a pro­posal that peo­ple within the ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Repub­li­can Party can be uni­fied on.”

Giv­ing the in­for­ma­tion to the pres­i­dent marks Phase 3 of a process kick­started by Trump’s son-in-law last year to see if there was enough con­sen­sus among Repub­li­can stake­hold­ers to over­haul the le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

While Kush­ner led many of the early meet­ings, he’s been work­ing closely with other top of­fi­cials on the ef­fort, in­clud­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Pence, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen, act­ing chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney and se­nior adviser Stephen Miller, White House of­fi­cials have said.

The pro­posal also looks to po­ten­tially in­crease caps on em­ploy­ment­based visas, rais­ing the num­ber of tem­po­rary guest worker visas while en­sur­ing im­mi­grants in the United States on tem­po­rary visas don’t au­to­mat­i­cally get per­ma­nent ones.

If ap­proved by Trump, the White House would cham­pion the pro­posal to the pub­lic and Congress for leg­is­la­tion in a way sim­i­lar to how it pressed law­mak­ers for new leg­is­la­tion that met its “four pil­lars,” in­clud­ing pro­tec­tion for those brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren, cuts to fam­ily mi­gra­tion, end­ing the di­ver­sity lot­tery pro­gram and wall fund­ing.

Some see the White House want­ing to recre­ate a 1990s fed­eral ad­vi­sory panel that had been led by Texas Rep. Bar­bara Jor­dan that would have cut le­gal mi­gra­tion by a third and served as a road map for Congress on other pol­icy changes.

“The Jor­dan Com­mis­sion’s pri­mary rec­om­men­da­tions were to im­prove il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion con­trols, re­vamp the refugee and asylee ad­mis­sion sys­tem, and re­duce over­all le­gal im­mi­gra­tion – es­sen­tially a blue­print for an im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that serves the na­tional in­ter­est and pre­cisely what Pres­i­dent Trump ran on in 2016,” said RJ Hau­man, the gov­ern­ment re­la­tions direc­tor at FAIR, which ad­vo­cates for stronger im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment. “Why would he need to con­vene an­other com­mis­sion to tell him what he al­ready knows?”

But se­nior of­fi­cials note that Trump – de­spite past sup­port for leg­is­la­tion that would have cut le­gal im­mi­gra­tion – has re­cently talked about in­creas­ing le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to help Amer­i­can busi­nesses at­tract for­eign la­bor to work farm and fac­tory jobs as well as fill tech­nol­ogy hubs.

“I want peo­ple to come into our coun­try in the largest num­bers ever, but they have to come in legally,” Trump said dur­ing his State of the Union ad­dress.

The White House de­clined to pro­vide any de­tails of the plan. In the past, the White House has em­pha­sized to McClatchy that the pres­i­dent’s goals are to en­sure the right for­eign work­ers are brought to the coun­try by re­plac­ing low-skilled im­mi­gra­tion with a merit-based sys­tem that pri­or­i­tizes im­mi­grants with spe­cial skills.

Se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have worked hard to con­tain ex­pec­ta­tions, say­ing that Trump may de­cide not to pur­sue what is pre­sented to him.

It could be months be­fore any pro­posal is shared with the Amer­i­can pub­lic.

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