President’s proposal sends skilled workers to front of line
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?”
President Donald Trump speaks about immigration reform in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday.