Trump Refocuses on Immigration Overhaul

The president seeks to shift immigration to a more merit-based rather than family-based system.

Political Editors · May 17, 2019

Immigration was arguably the biggest campaign issue that propelled President Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. Now, as 23 (and counting!) Democrat hopefuls jockey for their party’s nomination to challenge him in 2020, Trump is looking to refocus attention on the issue that, despite all his rhetoric, he’s had little success in tackling — albeit largely because he’s been thwarted by Congress and an activist judiciary. On Thursday, he rolled out a new merit-based points system for immigration.

Introducing his plan, Trump stated, “We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages, and safety of American workers first. Our proposal is pro-America, pro-immigrant and pro-worker. It’s just common sense.”

The Washington Examiner reports, “Under the Trump plan, the share of legal immigrants permitted entry based on job skills would rise from 12% to 57%. Family bonds as a justification for legal entry would fall from 66% to 33%. Asylum and diversity admissions would fall from 22% to 10%.” Trump also noted, “Future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission. Through these steps we will deliver an immigration system that respects and even strengthens our future, our traditions, and our values.”

A senior administration official offered an olive branch: “[The plan] can be what [Democrats] want it to be. If [Democrats] don’t want to engage, then it will be part of the election. If they want to engage, then it could be part of a negotiation. That’s going to be up to them.” Trump hopes his proposal will help to unite congressional Republicans and in so doing pressure Democrats into serious policy engagement.

And make no mistake, “This is his proposal,” the official added. “[President Trump has] been intimately involved in crafting it. We’ve shown him kind of where some of the criticism might come from on the Right, and his response is, ‘I’m happy to talk to them and I’ll convince them of why this is the right thing.’”

Predictably, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Trump’s plan to be “dead-on-arrival” because … it’s Trump’s. In a complete about-face from her own advocacy for a merit-based immigration system back in 2013, Pelosi fallaciously blasted Trump’s plan as “greenlighting the Administration’s barbaric family detention policies, reviving the President’s ineffective and wasteful wall, completely abandoning our patriotic and determined Dreamers and gutting our asylum and refugee protections, which the evangelical community has called the ‘crown jewel of American humanitarianism.’” Pelosi then sought to spin her own past support for merit-based immigration, insisting, “To say that this plan’s application criteria are ‘merit-based’ is the height of condescension.”

Clearly, Democrats have no intention of taking up the issue, as they’d rather divide Americans with their “Hate Trump” agenda. That’s why this is effectively Trump setting up a prominent issue on which to campaign in 2020.

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