White House launches new up­hill bid to over­haul immigration

The Tribune (SLO) - - News/Obituaries - BY JILL COLVIN

Re­viv­ing a deeply con­tentious is­sue that has stymied both Congress and the ad­min­is­tra­tion, the White House launched a new bid Tues­day to over­haul the na­tional immigration sys­tem that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­lent­lessly rails against.

Though sim­i­lar ef­forts have failed to garner any­where near the sup­port nec­es­sary, Trump hope­fully in­vited a dozen Repub­li­can sen­a­tors to the White House to pre­view the plan, which was spear­headed by se­nior ad­viser and pres­i­den­tial son-in-law Jared Kush­ner.

It’s the lat­est step in a new, more me­thod­i­cal ap­proach for an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­ten marked by Trump’s hastily writ­ten ex­ec­u­tive or­ders and dec­la­ra­tions by tweet. Kush­ner’s team has pulled in of­fi­cials with ex­pe­ri­ence in leg­is­la­tion-writ­ing from other agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, to help with the draft­ing.

Still, the road to pas­sage re­mains up­hill. Democrats are likely to strongly dis­ap­prove of parts of the plan.

Kush­ner out­lined two ma­jor ideas:

A bor­der se­cu­rity bill that would fo­cus, in part, on mod­ern­iz­ing ports of en­try to make sure all peo­ple, ve­hi­cles and pack­ages are scanned.

A sec­ond pack­age of immigration pro­pos­als that would cre­ate a more “merit-based” sys­tem to give pref­er­ence to those with job skills rather than rel­a­tives of im­mi­grants al­ready in the coun­try.

Un­der the plan, which does not ad­dress tem­po­rary visa cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing for la­bor­ers, the same num­ber of im­mi­grants would be per­mit­ted to en­ter the coun­try, but their com­po­si­tion would change.

The White House is also work­ing with Sen. Lind­sey Graham of South Carolina on ad­di­tional leg­is­la­tion that would ad­dress the na­tion’s asy­lum sys­tem, in an ef­fort to stem the flow of mi­grants across the bor­der, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to out­line the plan.

It’s just the lat­est ef­fort by the Trump White House to push Congress to over­haul immigration laws that he has long com­plained com­pro­mise na­tional se­cu­rity and de­press Amer­i­can work­ers’ wages by al­low­ing too many im­mi­grants to com­pete for jobs. But Trump has also said the coun­try needs more work­ers thanks to eco­nomic gains and has said that ed­u­cated, skilled work­ers – es­pe­cially those who grad­u­ate from Amer­i­can col­leges – should be able to stay and work. While Trump had pre­vi­ously re­jected an ear­lier ver­sion of Kush­ner’s pro­posal, ask­ing him to in­cor­po­rate more bor­der se­cu­rity mea­sures, the se­nior of­fi­cial told re­porters after the meet­ing Tues­day that Trump had signed off on the ef­fort last week and it should now be con­sid­ered “the Pres­i­dent Trump plan.”

The White House is now seek­ing feed­back and press­ing for sup­port from Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

The of­fi­cial de­clined to say when more de­tails would be un­veiled or how the White House in­tended to get Democrats – who have yet to be briefed on the plan – on board.

Sev­eral GOP sen­a­tors who at­tended the meet­ing did com­pli­ment the ef­fort.

David Per­due of Ge­or­gia said Trump was “de­vel­op­ing a plat­form for immigration that he can be for – and I was im­pressed.”

“The con­ver­sa­tion was about bor­der se­cu­rity and the immigration side – how to be­come much more ef­fec­tive at al­low­ing the right kind,” he said.

Tom Cot­ton of Ar­kan­sas said, “I heard large ar­eas of agree­ment from ev­ery­one in the room.” He said he still needs to see de­tails, but things are “mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Kevin Cramer of North Dakota called it a “good start­ing point” that could be appealing to Democrats in the right sit­u­a­tion. He said, “I think the en­vi­ron­ment right now with the boom­ing econ­omy, work­force de­mands, a cri­sis at the bor­der that’s no longer deemed man­u­fac­tured presents an op­por­tu­nity for dis­cus­sion.”

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