Trump’s immigration plans face an uphill battle
The Trump administration has outlined plans for a new US immigration system that will prioritise younger, better educated, English-speaking skilled workers.
In a recent speech at the White House, President Trump proposed moving away from the current system that favours applicants with family ties to the US.
He said also that border security would be beefed up and a tougher line taken on asylum seekers.
“We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country. But a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill,” President Trump said.
“The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 per cent to 57 per cent and we would like to even see if we can go higher,” he said.
He said immigrants would be “required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission”.
Criticising the current asylum process in the US, the President said: “Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions”.
“Unfortunately, legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims,” he said.
But to become law, the proposals would have to be approved by Congress where Democrats currently control the lower house.
And senior Democrats dismissed his ideas as “dead-on-arrival”.
They say the proposed new system fails to offer a route to citizenship for so-called ‘Dreamers’ – hundreds of thousands of people brought to the US as children but who still have no legal right to remain.
“This dead-on-arrival plan is not a remotely serious proposal,” said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Are they saying most of the people who have ever come to the United States in the history of our country are without merit, because they don’t have an engineering degree?” she said.
Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal – a daughter of Indian migrants – said the proposals undermined America’s family-based admissions system that she described as “the cornerstone of our country’s immigration policy”.
“It does not include any protections for dreamers. It does not include any plan for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are in this country that need a path for citizenship,” she said.
Although it is unlikely to progress in Congress, pundits say President Trump is trying to unite Republicans ahead of next year’s presidential and congressional elections.
In his speech he alluded to the next congressional elections.
“If for some reason, possibly political, we can’t get the Democrats to approve this merit-based, high-security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the election when we take back the House (of Representatives), keep the Senate, and, of course, hold the presidency,” President Trump said.
Business groups are unlikely to support the plan because it does not help farmers and other seasonal employers recruit more temporary workers.
Advocacy group the National Immigration Forum, said the plans “would recruit skilled engineers, but not skilled farm workers”.
“The fact is, our economy needs both,” the group said in a statement.
The White House’s plans are also unlikely to satisfy many politicians and commentators on the right who want an overall drop in immigration numbers.
Earlier this year the President declared a national emergency on the US southern border, claiming he needed special powers to build the wall to halt all illegal migration.
In recent months there has been a surge in migrant caravans which involve thousands of people travelling through Mexico to seek asylum in the US.
The Trump administration has responded by deploying extra troops and threatening to close the border.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist