On Thursday, United States (US) President Donald Trump announced his plan to improve border security and reform the legal immigration system to favor applicants who speak English, are well-educated, and have job offers. The President will present a detailed overview of the plan in the coming weeks. The last time the country made changes to its immigration system was in 1965.
For decades, US immigration law has prioritized family-based immigration, where two-thirds of all people who are granted green cards each year have family ties to people in the country. President Trump plans to maintain legal immigration at 1.1 million people a year, where family-based immigration would account for one-third of this figure. Highly skilled people with jobs would be given priority, and could bring with them their spouses and children.
The immigration proposal is largely the work of senior advisers Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, and economic aide Kevin Hassett. The team looked at the legal migration systems of Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand for how to shift American policy more toward attracting skilled workers and less on uniting extended families. They found that 12 percent of migration to the US was based on employment and skill, compared with 68 percent for Australia, 63 percent for Canada, 57 percent for New Zealand, and 52 percent for Japan. By giving a preference to immigrants proficient in English and with degrees or training and job offers, the reformed plan will allow 57 percent of green cards, which grant permanent legal residency, to be based on employment.
President Trump proposes to end the diversity lottery system, which offers applicants from countries with low immigration rates the chance to move to the United States. The plan also proposes changes to the asylum process, which the Trump administration says is abused. This would result in 10 percent of green cards being given to immigration for humanitarian reasons, down from 22 percent currently.
The plan also focuses on strengthening the country’s southern border wall with Mexico, which experiences very high levels of illegal immigration, human trafficking, and drug smuggling, and will improve the inspection of goods and people at ports of entry. An increase in fees collected at the border would pay for border security infrastructure.
Immigration will likely be a key issue heading into the November 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections, and Republicans will now need to seek approval for the changes by Congress. Priorities of Democratic lawmakers are “Dreamers”, the children of immigrants in the country illegally, and immigrants in the country under Temporary Protected Status. It is currently unknown whether the reform plan will include provisions to help farmers and other seasonal employers obtain more guest workers.
The day before the reform announcement, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham proposed legislation to deal with the surge of migrants from Central America at the southern US border to address the immediate crisis.