President Donald Trump unveiled a new immigration plan Thursday to move U.S. immigration toward a “merit-based system” that prioritizes high-skilled workers over those with family already in the country.
The plan, which does not address the fate of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, stands little chance of advancing in Congress, where lawmakers of both parties have greeted it with skepticism.
“Today we are presenting a clear contrast,” Trump said in a speech at the White House’s Rose Garden. “Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages and, frankly, lawless chaos. We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages and safety of American workers first. Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker. It’s just common sense.”
Providing protections from deportations for such young immigrants, known as “dreamers,” has been a leading priority for Democrats since Trump sought to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said earlier Thursday that the plan does not include those protections because the issue is too divisive.
“Every single time we have put forward or anyone else has put forward any type of immigration plan and it’s included DACA, it’s failed. It’s a divisive thing,” Sanders told reporters at the White House, adding that the issue was “left out on purpose.”
Trump said in his Rose Garden remarks that the plan would not change the number of green cards allocated each year but would prioritize high-skilled workers over those with family already in the country. It would allow applicants to rack up eligibility based on factors such as age, ability to speak English, job offers and educational background.
“If adopted, our plan will transform America’s immigration system into the pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world,” he said.
He blasted the country’s current immigration laws as “senseless,” arguing that awarding some green cards by lottery “is contrary to American values” and calling for the U.S. to “create a clear path for top talent.”
Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who helped develop the plan, previewed it with other Trump aides in private briefings for lawmakers over the past week. But there appears to be no clear path toward advancing the plan through Congress.
House Democrats have put forward a bill that would offer a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, as well as for immigrants who are living in the United States under temporary protected status, which Trump has also sought to end.
Speaking to reporters, Sanders said protections offered through the DACA program are “certainly something to discuss and look at and address.”
“But this plan is focused on a different part of fixing the immigration system, and we’d like for people to not reject it before they even sit down and really learn about it,” she said.
Sanders also sought to put Democrats on the defensive ahead of the formal release of Trump’s plan, claiming there is “nothing in there that Democrats shouldn’t be for.”
“We want to move to this merit-based system,” she said during an interview on Fox News. “Democrats right now, unless they get on board this, the only thing they’ve said they want is open borders. I think that is a terrible thing for our country, and I think it’s a terrible message for them going into 2020. I think it would be wonderful to watch them get on board with something that helps secure our border.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · John Wagner, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, David Nakamura