Trump to propose plan to make U.S. immigration more merit-based

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Trump speaks to workers at Cameron LNG Export Facility in Hackberry, Louisiana
FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Trump speaks to workers at Cameron LNG Export Facility in Hackberry, Louisiana  

By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday will outline an immigration plan aimed at hardening border ports of entry and making the legal migration system based more on a proficiency in English and employment, senior administration officials said.

Trump's immigration proposal, the product largely of senior advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller and economic aide Kevin Hassett, is an effort to provide a framework for Republicans to rally around.

While its chances of approval by Congress seem distant, the plan will give Republicans an outline they can say they favor as Trump and lawmakers look toward the November 2020 presidential and congressional elections, where immigration will likely be a key issue.

The Trump plan would keep legal immigration steady at 1.1 million people per year, but would prioritize high-skilled people with jobs and fewer family members, the officials told reporters at a White House briefing.

It would harden the border by building more of Trump's coveted southern border wall and improve inspections of goods and people at ports of entry to fight drug smuggling. It would propose an increase in fees collected at the border to pay for border security infrastructure.

"Our goal in the short term is to make sure that we are laying out what the president's policy is in terms of what he's looking for from immigration reform, and we would like to see if we could get the Republican Party to come together on these two pillars, which we think is a very, very logical, very mainstream point of view," said one official.

The Trump plan would give a preference to immigrants proficient in English and with degrees or training and job offers, the officials said.

It does not address some of the hot-button issues in the immigration debate, such as what to do about the surge of people crossing the southern border from Mexico.

Nor does it deal with the "Dreamer" children of illegal immigrants or immigrants in the country under Temporary Protected Status, both of whom are priorities of Democratic lawmakers.

Instead, Kushner and others looked at the legal migration systems of Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand for clues on how to shift U.S. policy more toward attracting skilled workers and less on uniting extended families.

After studying the systems of the other countries, they found that 12% of migration to the United States was based on employment and skill, compared with 63% for Canada, 57% for New Zealand, 68% for Australia and 52% for Japan.

Trump will propose ending the diversity lottery system, which offers applicants from countries with low immigration rates the chance to move to America, and would allow 57% of green cards, which grant permanent legal residency, to be based on employment.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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