Trump announces sweeping immigration plan to favor educated, skilled workers

President Trump on Thursday unveiled a sweeping immigration reform plan that would favor people with top educations and skills and sharply limit those admitted at random or solely because they have family in the US.

“We’re here on this very beautiful spring day in the Rose Garden to unveil our plan to create a fair, modern and lawful system of immigration for the United States, and it is about time,” the president said, as he again tried to convince the public and lawmakers that the nation’s immigration system was broken and needed to be overhauled.

“Our plan achieves two critical goals. First, it stops illegal immigration and fully secures the border, and second, it establishes a new legal immigration system that protects American wages, promotes American values, and attracts the best and brightest from all around the world,” the president continued in an unusually low-key address.

Currently, 66 percent of green cards are issued to immigrants with family ties to the US and only 12 percent are given out based on their skills.

Under the new plan, 57 percent would be awarded what Trump called Build America Visas based on merit.

“Only 12 percent 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 even 70 and 75 percent in some cases,” he said.

“Under the senseless rules of the current system, we’re not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world.”

Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would also be taken into account.

The diversity visa lottery, which offers green cards to citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US, would be eliminated.

“Twenty-one percent of immigrants are issued either by random lottery or because they’re fortunate enough to be selected for humanitarian relief,” Trump said.

“Random selection is contrary to American values and blocks out many qualified potential immigrants from around the world who have much to contribute.”

The US would also strengthen ports of entry to ensure all vehicles and people are screened and create a self-sustaining fund, paid for with increased fees, to maintain and modernize ports of entry and new border walls in targeted locations.

The commander in chief also charged that many of the asylum seekers from Central America who are flooding across the southern border are making bogus claims.

“Unfortunately legitimate asylum seekers are being replaced by those lodging frivolous claims — these are frivolous claims to gain admission into our country.

The president also said that the White House plan — which faces opposition from Democrats as well as some Republicans — would not discriminate against any individuals.

“No matter where in the world you’re born, no matter who your relatives are, if you want to become an American citizen, it will be clear exactly what standard we ask you to achieve,” he said.

But he acknowledged that the plan could face an uphill fight in a divided Congress — but predicted it would ultimately pass when the GOP regains control of the House.

“If for some reason, possibly political, we can’t get the Democrats to approve this merit-based, high-security plan, then we’ll get it approved immediately after the election when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and, of course, hold the presidency,” he said, the one line that prompted a standing ovation from the crowd, which included members of his administration and key GOP lawmakers.

The latest effort was spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, but Trump said law enforcement professionals also had a large say.

“It was designed with significant input from our great law enforcement professionals, to detail what they need to make our border … 100 percent operationally secure. 100 percent,” he said.

Efforts to overhaul the immigration system have gone nowhere for three decades because of the deep divide between Republicans and Democrats on the hot button issue.

Prospects for an agreement seem especially bleak as the 2020 elections near, though the plan could give Trump and the GOP a proposal to rally behind, even if talks with Democrats go nowhere.

The plan does not address what to do about the millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally, including hundreds of thousands of young “Dreamers” brought to the US as children — a top priority for Democrats.

Nor does it reduce overall rates of immigration, as many conservative Republicans would like to see.

With Post wires

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