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Immigration

Trump Unveils Plan for Merit-Based Immigration System

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

President Trump unveiled a series of reforms designed to secure the southern border and transition the country toward a merit-based immigration system during a Thursday speech in the White House Rose Garden.

“We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages, and safety of American workers first,” Trump said. “Our proposal is pro-America, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker. It’s just common sense.”

Under the plan unveiled Thursday, which has not yet resulted in the drafting of any actual legislation, the points system used to evaluate applicants will be recalibrated to create a more highly educated affluent class of immigrants by increasing the number of visas awarded to the highly-skilled from 12 to 57 percent.

The plan will also reform the asylum system, which, as currently constructed, allows virtually all migrants who make asylum claims to enter the country while their cases are being adjudicated. The new system will filter out “meritless” asylum claims at the border, Trump said Tuesday.

The points-system reformation would be coupled with funding to improve physical infrastructure at the border. Specifically, the plan creates a trust fund, financed through fees collected at the border, which will create revenue for the construction of additional border wall, 400 miles of which will be completed by the end of the year, according to Trump.

The plan also includes provisions to facilitate assimilation through a series of language and knowledge requirements.

“Future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission. Through these steps we will deliver an immigration system that respects and even strengthens our future, our traditions, and our values,” Trump said.

The legal status of so-called Dreamers and foreign nationals living in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program are not addressed in the new plan.

Democrats have attacked the plan as needlessly cruel and insensitive to those immigrants lacking educational credentials and are unwilling to accommodate any of the proposed reforms absent a concession from Trump on the legal status of Dreamers.

“Are they saying family is without merit?” Pelosi asked reporters on Capitol Hill. “Are they saying most of the people who have come to the United States in the history of our country are without merit because they don’t have an engineering degree?”

Proponents of a more restrictive immigration system, meanwhile, have criticized the administration for refusing to make a reduction to legal immigration levels part of the plan.

“You’d think throwing [Trump’s restrictionist base] a bone and including at least a token, tiny, practically symbolic five percent cut in total legal immigration numbers wouldn’t be too much to ask,” Center for Immigration Studies president Mark Krikorian recently wrote in this space. “Let’s hope they come to their senses before the plan is finalized and presented to the public.”

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