World America 17 May 2019 US immigration may b ...

US immigration may be overhauled

AP
Published May 17, 2019, 1:53 am IST
Updated May 17, 2019, 1:53 am IST
Green cards for skilled people with degrees, job offers instead of those with kin in America.
US President Donald Trump (Photo:AP)
 US President Donald Trump (Photo:AP)

Washington: After years of setbacks and stalemates, US President Donald Trump will lay out yet another immigration plan as he tries to convince the American public and lawmakers that the nation’s legal immigration system should be overhauled.

The latest effort, spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, focuses on beefing up border security and rethinking the green card system so that it would favour people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers instead of relatives of those already in the country.

 

A shift to a more merit-based system prioritising high-skilled workers would mark a dramatic departure from the nation’s largely family-based approach, which officials said gives roughly 66 per cent of green cards to those with family ties and only 12 per cent based on skills.

But the plan, which is set to be rolled out on Thursday but has yet to be embraced by Trump’s own party — let alone Democrats — faces an uphill battle in Congress. Efforts to overhaul the immigration system have gone nowhere for three decades amid deeply divided Republicans and Democrats. 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.

Trump will nonetheless deliver a Rose Garden speech on Thursday throwing his weight behind the plan, which has thus far received mixed reviews from Republicans in the Senate.

In briefings on Wedne-sday that attracted dozens of journalists, administration officials said the plan would create a points-based visa system, similar to those used by Canada and other countries.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to outline the plan before Trump’s announcement, said the US would award the same number of green cards as it now does. But far more would go to exceptional students so they can remain in the country after graduation, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees. Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would also be taken into account.

Far fewer green cards would be given to people with relatives already in the US and 57 per cent versus the current 12 per cent would be awarded based on merit.

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

The officials offered fewer specifics on border security, which is expected to remain a key focus for Trump as he campaigns for reelection.
Trump has been furiously railing against the spike in Central American migr-ant families trying to enter the country, and he forced a government shutdown in a failed effort to fulfil his 2016 promise to build a southern border wall.

As part of the plan, officials want to shore up ports of entry to ensure all vehicles and people are screened and to create a self-sustaining fund, paid for with increased fees, to modernise ports of entry.

The plan also calls for building border wall in targeted locations and continues to push for an overhaul to the US asylum system, with the goal of processing fewer applications and removing people who don’t qualify faster.

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