President Trump sought to retake the reins of the immigration debate Thursday by announcing a bold plan to refashion legal immigration from its heavy reliance on family ties into a points-based system that would boost those with preferred skills.
"That reversal would increase the overall education level of immigrants, the officials said, with almost three-quarters of those migrating to the United States having bachelor's degrees or an advanced degree under the new Trump plan".
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Trump that "successful negotiations could allow American-owned automobile producers to achieve long-term economic viability and increase R&D (research and development) spending to develop cutting-edge technologies that are critical to the defense industry". "... I am urging the president to lead us to a solution, and I am urging our Democratic colleagues, in spite of your dislike and displeasure with this president, to find a solution to this problem quickly".
"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", he said. But putting that omission aside, the proposal is an important step to shift to a system that focuses almost 60 percent of visas on economic merit, and the administration deserves credit for recognizing the right kind of reform. President Trump intends to reverse that and take that 12% number to 57%, even higher. It would focus on things like age, English proficiency, education and whether the applicant has a job offer.
"Our proposal builds upon our nation's rich history of immigration, while strengthening the bonds of citizenship that bind us together as a national family", he said. It appeared to be a shift away from the priorities of 2017, Trump's first year in office, that sought to prevent the influx of foreign workers who could displace American workers in favor of a new approach preferred by more traditional Republicans, particularly those close to the corporate sector who are desperate to attract more foreign workers to fill US factories and tech hubs. "We want to attract the best, and that includes many people from many parts of society".
The plan, officials say, is "more fair and clear" than previous Trump administration immigration efforts and "is created to give Republicans a positive proposal they can pitch on the campaign trail and in negotiations with Democrats". "If you don't you will promptly be returned home".
Although publically supported by the administration, this new immigration plan faces an uphill battle in Congress.
Trump's latest plan has been spearheaded by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. "100% operationally secure. 100%", he said.
Efforts to overhaul the immigration system have gone nowhere for three decades amid deep partisan divisions.
The president acknowledged the political difficulties of congressional action this year but signaled that he will take his plan to voters in his reelection campaign next year.
Yet Mr. Trump's plan does not deal with future foreign guest workers, nor does it address any of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the USA who are clamoring for legal status.
Nor does it reduce overall rates of immigration, as many conservative Republicans would like.
What I'm trying to do is stop the flow coming from Central America to regain control of our border and stop a humanitarian crisis that I think is just going to get worse over time. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close Trump ally. "It will be made crystal clear", Trump said.