Originally published by LA Times
WASHINGTON President Donald Trump's new immigration plan includes an overhaul that "expedites border construction," revamps asylum laws, targets those who have overstayed their visas and moves toward a so-called merit-based green card system, according to a written summary of the plan obtained by McClatchy.
While the number of immigrants would neither increase nor decrease, the proposal would create a new high-skilled immigrant visa called the "Build America Visa" for "extraordinary talented individuals," high-skilled professionals and top graduate students from American universities.
"The President's plan is designed to attract immigrants who love America, share our values and want to contribute to society," the written summary states. "This is achieved by requiring green card applicants to pass a U.S. civics exam and demonstrate English proficiency."
The Trump immigration proposal touts the "gold standard of border security" and represents an effort to rally Republicans, who are divided on key aspects of this issue. But despite stiff enforcement measures, one crucial faction the immigration hard-liners who helped Trump get elected is already wary about whether they want to remain in the inner circle if this is the starting point.
Trump, in remarks Thursday afternoon in the White House Rose Garden, is expected to also call for mandatory federal employment checks to ensure those hired are legally able to work.
The plan led by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, is facing push back from immigration hard-liners who are concerned that it does not actually cut immigration levels as past proposals that the Trump administration submitted.
"It seems to me that they are trying to pack in as much stuff that hawks will like, because they know that hawks are not happy that the numbers are slated to stay the same," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, who is in regular discussions with the administration.
The plan also authorizes Customs and Border Protection to raise customs fees and fines, which will be directed to a fund to support border security and trade. A new biometric entry/exit system will also be implemented and agencies will be directed to stop issuing visas to citizens of recalcitrant countries that will not accept back deported nationals.
The plan is open to modification, those familiar with the discussions say, as officials in the White House keep trying to bring in more Republicans. The details shared with McClatchy show the administration is making an effort to get hard-liners on board by including stronger enforcement measures such as "expediting barrier construction," tightening asylum rules, tracking down those who overstay their visas, and revisions to legal agreements that prevent children from being detained for more than 20 days.
The plan will prioritize visas based on skills.
"Prospective immigrants will compete through a points based system for the opportunity to come to America on a Build America Visa," the plan states.
The White House estimates that now only about 12% of people obtaining green cards and citizenship do so based on "employment and skill," with the majority entering through family connections, humanitarian reasons and the diversity lottery. Under Trump's proposal, the White House says nearly 60% would enter due to employment and skill.
Immigration hard-liners have long been wary of Kushner plans, fearing that his corporate ties would lead him to pursue a plan that runs counter to Trump's "Hire American" priorities.
Late last year, Kushner helped kick off a fresh discussion on immigration that reflected a new paradigm in the White House. It appeared to be a shift away from the priorities of 2017, Trump's first year in office, that sought to prevent the influx of foreign workers who could displace American workers in favor of a new approach preferred by more traditional Republicans, particularly those close to the corporate sector who are desperate to attract more foreign workers to fill U.S. factories and tech hubs.
Trump won the Republican nomination and the presidency in 2016 by campaigning on a promise to crack down on immigration, build a border wall and end an Obama-era program that offered the so-called Dreamers temporary, renewable work permits.
But groups like the Center for Immigration Studies are disappointed that the proposal doesn't include any reduction in the overall level of legal immigration, "not even a symbolic one," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the center.
Krikorian said that's important because it's clear the proposal is not really a legislative vehicle. It has no chance of passing as Democrats would not support it without some serious consideration of legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country or the so-called Dreamers who were brought into the country illegally as children.
"The upshot of which is that by choosing to keep the immigration level at 1.1 million, the administration is embracing mass immigration, which is not what his supporters voted for," Krikorian said.
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which also supports reduction in immigration numbers, said the immigration system is in crisis and this could be the best plan offered for the next several decades especially if Democrats later take control of the White House and Congress.
While the numbers need to be reduced, Stein said the proposal's limits to asylum, cuts to extended family migration, and movement toward a merit system would reduce pressure to increase immigration numbers. He said it would also increase the income earning ability of the immigrants who are admitted.
"It needs a top-to-bottom, root-and-branch reform. It needs to be simplified and just like anything else, you have to turn the water off before you can fix the plumbing," Stein said.