Pres­i­dent’s pro­posal sends skilled work­ers to front of line

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WASH­ING­TON » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump un­veiled a new im­mi­gra­tion plan Thurs­day to move U.S. im­mi­gra­tion to­ward a “mer­it­based sys­tem” that pri­or­i­tizes high- skilled work­ers over those with fam­ily al­ready in the coun­try. The plan, which does not ad­dress the fate of young un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who were brought to the United States as chil­dren, stands lit­tle chance of ad­vanc­ing in Con­gress, where law­mak­ers of both par­ties have

greeted it with skep­ti­cism.

“To­day we are pre­sent­ing a clear con­trast,” Trump said in a speech at the White House’s Rose Gar­den. “Democrats are propos­ing open borders, lower wages and, frankly, law­less chaos. We are propos­ing an im­mi­gra­tion plan that puts the jobs, wages and safety of Amer­i­can work­ers first. Our pro­posal is pro-Amer­i­can, proim­mi­grant and pro-worker. It’s just com­mon sense.”

Pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tions from de­por­ta­tions for such young im­mi­grants, known as “dream­ers,” has been a lead­ing pri­or­ity for Democrats since Trump sought to end the Obama- era De­ferred Action for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA) pro­gram.

But White House press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders said Thurs­day that the plan does not in­clude those pro­tec­tions be­cause the is­sue is too di­vi­sive.

“Ev­ery sin­gle time we have put for­ward or any­one else has put for­ward any type of im­mi­gra­tion plan and it’s included DACA, it’s failed. It’s a di­vi­sive thing,” San­ders told re­porters at the White House, adding that the is­sue was “left out on pur­pose.”

Trump said in his Rose Gar­den re­marks that the plan would not change the num­ber of green cards al­lo­cated each year but would pri­or­i­tize high-skilled work­ers over those with fam­ily al­ready in the coun­try. It would al­low ap­pli­cants to rack up el­i­gi­bil­ity based on fac­tors such as age, abil­ity to speak English, job of­fers and ed­u­ca­tional background.

He blasted the coun­try’s cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion laws as “sense­less,” ar­gu­ing that award­ing some green cards by lot­tery “is con­trary to Amer­i­can values” and call­ing for the U. S. to “cre­ate a clear path for top tal­ent.”

Trump’s son-in-law and White House ad­viser, Jared Kush­ner, who helped de­velop the plan, pre­viewed it with other Trump aides in pri­vate brief­ings for law­mak­ers over the past week. But there ap­pears to be no clear path to­ward ad­vanc­ing the plan through Con­gress.

White House aides em­pha­sized that Trump is en­thu­si­as­ti­cally on board with an ef­fort to demon­strate that he en­dorses le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to help U.S. com­pa­nies even as he has railed against other groups, in­clud­ing im­mi­grant families seek­ing asy­lum and refugees.

The DACA pro­gram, cre­ated by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama through ex­ec­u­tive action in 2012, has pro­vided re­new­able two-year work per­mits to more than 800,000 im­mi­grants who ar­rived as chil­dren.

Trump moved to ter­mi­nate the pro­gram in fall 2017, call­ing it un­con­sti­tu­tional, but fed­eral courts have en­joined the ad­min­is­tra­tion from strip­ping the pro­tec­tions from those al­ready en­rolled, and the case could come be­fore the Supreme Court in the next term.

Trump has said he hopes the court per­mits him to end DACA, which he be­lieves would give him more lever­age to ne­go­ti­ate a broader im­mi­gra­tion over­haul with Democrats.

House Democrats have put for­ward a bill that would of­fer a path to cit­i­zen­ship for DACA re­cip­i­ents, as well as for im­mi­grants who are liv­ing in the United States un­der tem­po­rary pro­tected status, which Trump has also sought to end.

Speak­ing to re­porters, San­ders said pro­tec­tions of­fered through the DACA pro­gram are “cer­tainly some­thing to dis­cuss and look at and ad­dress.”

“But this plan is fo­cused on a dif­fer­ent part of fix­ing the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, and we’d like for peo­ple to not re­ject it be­fore they even sit down and re­ally learn about it,” she said.

Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D- N.Y., panned Trump’s plan be­fore its for­mal re­lease.

“Truth be told, the re­ported White House plan isn’t a se­ri­ous at­tempt at im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” he said dur­ing re­marks on the Sen­ate floor. “If any­thing, it’s a po­lit­i­cal doc­u­ment that is anti-im­mi­gra­tion re­form. It repack­ages the same par­ti­san, rad­i­cal, anti- im­mi­grant poli­cies that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has pushed for the two years, all of which have strug­gled to earn even a sim­ple ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate let alone 60 votes.”

At a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day morn­ing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DSan Fran­cisco, said that she fa­vors bi­par­ti­san “com­pre­hen­sive” re­form and that her cham­ber plans to act on sev­eral fronts, in­clud­ing pro­tec­tions for dream­ers.

Pelosi said she had yet to be briefed on Trump’s plan but took is­sue with the use of the term “merit.”

“It is re­ally a con­de­scend­ing word,” she said. “Are they say­ing fam­ily is with­out merit?”

MARK WIL­SON — GETTY IM­AGES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks about im­mi­gra­tion re­form in the Rose Gar­den of the White House on Thurs­day.

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