Earlier this month, President Trump announced his new plan for reforming the immigration system. The announcement was not particularly detailed, it was also short on any new ideas. For example, the crux of the plan introduced a point system that would emphasize selection of new immigrants based on academic and professional characteristics, in addition to proficiency in the English language. In a press conference, Trump stated his belief that the U.S. must prioritize younger and highly educated immigrants to "contribute more to our social safety net" and "restore the integrity of our broken asylum system." As Politico reported, Trump stated that "[m]y plan expedites relief for legitimate asylum seekers by screening out the merit-less claims. If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted. If you don't, you will promptly be returned home."
Trump stated that immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship legally should also be held to a strict, point-based merit standard. According to Politico, "[u]nder his plan, the younger and more educated a person is, the more likely they are to have their applications approved. Points would also be added for having a "valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education or a plan to create jobs." Immigrants would have to prove they're financially self-sufficient, learn English, and pass a civics exam prior to entry into the country.
According to the American Immigration Council (AIC), "[t]he president's recipe for 'fixing' the legal immigration system, however, seems to be based on a misguided diagnosis that has nothing to do with the actual needs of the country or American businesses, workers, and families. He simplistically defines the problem as 'discriminating against genius' and admitting immigrants 'by chance.' It's true that employers who intend to hire foreign-born workers with specialized skills and high-skilled immigrants wanting to start a business in the United States face some obstacles in the current system. But that is only one problematic aspect of our legal immigration system."
AIC also believes that, in this proposal, "merit is narrowly defined as possessing certain types of skills, employment histories, and educational credentials. The proposal assumes these narrowly defined sets of criteria are what the country needs. However, this doesn't account for the complexity of our economy, the various types of skills that are in demand, and the fact that those needs may change over time. For example, the proposal ignores the fact that so-called “less-skilled” immigrants play a fundamental role in the essential economy, which encompasses occupations such as elder care, construction, and food services, to mention just a few."
The new proposal is similar to a previous piece of legislation introduced by Republican lawmakers in 2017, known as the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act. The RAISE Act has been appropriately criticized for seeking to "significantly reduce levels of legal immigration to the United States by drastically cutting off some family-based categories, redefining others, and eliminating the diversity visa."
As Forbes reported just last week, the new proposal is, in fact, as ominous as it appears. First, it has become clear that the administration intends to eliminate the applications of more than 4 million people waiting in the current family and employment backlogs. “Immigrants in the green card backlog would lose their place in line and would need to apply under the new point-based system,” according to an analysis from Berry Appleman & Leiden. “The White House has said people who are currently waiting for green cards will receive additional points, but no specifics have been released.” It also would prevent Lawful Permanent Residents from sponsoring their spouses, and would further bar U.S. citizens from from sponsoring their parents.
Green | Evans-Schroeder supports sensible comprehensive immigration reform. The White House's new proposal is not only unrealistic and cruel, it also completely avoids a discussion of a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Any realistic immigration reform plan must include the DREAM Act, and a true commitment to providing additional resources to the overburdened immigration court system.