Trump Unveils Plan to Reform Immigration System with Focus on “Merit” Based Immigration

President Trump spoke late last week about his administration’s plan to “modernize” and reform the nation’s immigration system.  During his remarks, Trump identified two primary goals for the plan: 1) to stop illegal immigration and secure the nation’s border; and 2) to shift the immigration system away from primarily family-based immigration toward a points-based or merit-based approach.

To secure the nation’s border, Trump proposed creating a “permanent and self-sustaining border security trust fund” that would be financed by fees and revenues generated at the border.  The funds would be directed toward building a physical barrier at the border and investment in technology and resources to police the border.  Trump also proposed changing laws that he believes incentivize the smuggling of women and children.  He stated his plan “will change the law to stop the flood of child smuggling and to humanely reunite unaccompanied children with their families back home – and rapidly.”  Finally, the Trump plan aims to quickly deny “meritless claims” for asylum and close “loopholes in federal law to make clear that gang members and criminals are inadmissible.”

Trump stated that 66% of legal immigrants come to the United States through family-based immigration (petitions filed by their spouse, parents, siblings, or children), and another 21% of legal immigrants are beneficiaries of the “random lottery” or because they qualify for “humanitarian relief.”  Trump’s plan seeks to change this system and shift toward a merit-based immigration system that gives preference to highly skilled workers, similar to the system in Canada.  Under Trump’s proposed system “[y]ou will get more points for being a younger worker,” “for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs.”  Additionally, Trump’s proposal would require immigrants to pass an English-language and civics exam prior to admission to the United States.

President Trump’s proposal was immediately criticized by many.  Some conservatives criticized the plan for failing to reduce overall levels of immigration to the United States.  Democrats, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York criticized the plan for failing to address the situation of individuals with DACA and for being anti-immigrant.


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