President Donald Trump is expected to unveil a new merit-based immigration plan Thursday, designed to replace the current immigration system that favors family ties over skills and work experience.
The plan is also designed to encourage a bipartisan deal on immigration reform and leaves out some important immigration issues that have been partisan sticking points in the past, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act, which the Trump administration would like to discontinue.
NBC News reports that the proposal includes two parts: "a physical infrastructure component that would include border wall construction and be financed by new fees on trade collected at the border, and a revamped points system for those applying for U.S. citizenship."
The system is designed to "shift" the demographics of immigrants getting citizienship, temporary or otherwise, from mostly unskilled laborers to more highly educated, highly skilled workers whose talents American industries are lacking.
"Currently, about 12 percent of those immigrants qualify to enter based on their skills, while more than half are given permission to enter because of a family connection. Under Mr. Trump’s proposal, those numbers would be reversed, with nearly 60 percent of all visas going to immigrants with particular skills or offers of employment," The New York Times reports. "That reversal would increase the overall education level of immigrants, the officials said, with nearly three-quarters of those migrating to the United States having bachelor’s degrees or an advanced degree under the new Trump plan."
The plan, officials say, is "more fair and clear" than previous Trump administration immigration efforts and "is designed to give Republicans a positive proposal they can pitch on the campaign trail and in negotiations with Democrats."
The administration did note, in a briefing given Thursday morning, that the new immigration proposal isn't intended to become law — that it's just a "starting point" for what the administration hopes is a long-term immigration solution.
There are some key items missing, though, even if those items happen to be controversial. There's no effort to address what should happen to DREAMers or DACA recipients, and whether that program should be continued beyond its expiration date. Trump has routinely encouraged Congress to make a decision on the program, since DACA is, itself, an executive order and doesn't have the same effect as legislation.
The plan also seems to address immigration as a future issue and skips over current problems at the border, namely, the need for a new wall across the entire southern border — something the Trump administration has listed as a priority since the beginning of its tenure. The bill also seems to avoid addressing the current border crisis, though it does specify a need to approve funds for border security-related "infrastructure" projects.
The plan also doesn't address what to do about illegal immigrants who are already living in the United States — something else the Trump administration has listed as a priority since its campaign days, but has yet to move on — and it does not markedly decrease the number of immigrants that the United States accepts.
Those issues, though, may come as part of a later version of the bill, according to White House insiders.
“What we’re doing is completing step one, which is having a proposal,” a senior administration official told NBC. “We’ll see how everyone reacts and then we’ll see what step two and step three look like.”