United States President Donald Trump has rolled out a new immigration plan in yet the latest move by a sitting President to overhaul the country’s legal yet troublesome immigration system.
The focus of the new plan developed by his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner would ramp up border security. It will also re-calibrate the country’s green card system to favour highly skilled workers over those seeking asylum or based on their family ties.
The proposal was introduced in Washington on Thursday. It does not address how to deal with the millions of undocumented people already living in the United States, including the dreamers. It remains a political document, for now, that Trump hopes will be embraced by both major political parties.
“Our plan includes a sweeping modernisation of our dysfunctional legal immigration process. It is totally dysfunctional. The system will finally be fair, transparent and promote equality and opportunity for all. Every year we admit 1.1 million immigrants as permanent legal residents, these green card holders get lifetime authorisation to live and work here and a five-year path to American citizenship. This is the most prized citizenship anywhere in the world by far.”
Among the elements of the plan is fortifying the controversial border wall with Mexico; introducing a merit based system favour skills over family ties; protecting US wages by stemming the flow of low-wage labour and limiting extended family members who can join a green card holder while importing specific workers for critical industries.
“As a result of our broken rules the annual green card flow is mostly low wage and low skilled. Newcomers compete for jobs against the most vulnerable Americans and put pressure on our social safety net and generous welfare programmes. Only 12% of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or based on merit. In countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand and others, that number is closer to 60 and 70 and 75% in some cases. The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12% to 57% and we’d like to even see if we can go higher,” says Trump.
Visa applicants to be rated on education, job offers
The administration is currently battling an influx of asylum seekers at its southern border amidst President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over funding for his wall project. However under this new proposal, factors such as English proficiency, employment offers or the ability to create employment would be favourable to applicants.
“We will replace the existing green card categories with a new visa – the Build America Visa which is what we all want to hear. Like Canada and so many other modern countries, we create an easy to navigate points based selection system. You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer up employment and advanced education or a plan to create jobs,” explains Trump.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, are unlikely to back the project legislatively. Critically for them, the plan does not address the question of the dreamers – a category of undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, but raised for most of their lives in the United States.
The White House earlier indicated that previous plans to address the dreamers have failed and that their latest roll out is focused on fixing a different part of the immigration system – a matter likely to be re-litigated on the campaign trail ahead of the 2020 Presidential election. It is, nonetheless, unlikely to see the light of day before then.