Trump to unveil new plan to overhaul legal immigration system

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 15, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of setbacks and stalemates, President Donald Trump will lay out yet another immigration plan on Thursday as he tries to convince the American public and lawmakers that the nation’s current legal immigration system should be overhauled.

The latest effort, spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, focuses on border security and rethinking the current green card system so that it would favor people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers instead of relatives of those already in the United States.

Trump planned a speech Thursday throwing his weight behind the latest approach, which so far has received mixed reviews from Republican senators. It faces an uphill battle in Congress, with prospects bleak for an election-season agreement on such a contentious issue.

Senior administration officials have framed the plan as one that Republicans might be able to unite behind, giving the party a road map they can say they’re “for.”

The plan does not address what to do about people already living in the U.S. illegally, including young “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the country as children. But many outside the administration believe the White House might be open to an eventual deal that could include new protections for that group.

In briefings with reporters Wednesday that attracted dozens of journalists, administration officials said the plan would create a points-based visa system, similar to those used by Canada and other countries. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to outline the plan before Trump’s announcement.

The U.S. would award the same number of green cards as it now does, but far more would go to exceptional students, professionals and people with vocational degrees. Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would be taken into account.

Far fewer green cards would be given to people with relatives already in the U.S. The diversity visa lottery, which offers green cards to citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S., would be eliminated.

The officials offered fewer specifics on border security, but said the administration hopes to create a fund, paid for by increasing certain fees, and use the money to modernize security and ports of entry.

The administration will push for an overhaul to the asylum system, with the goal of having to process fewer applications and making it easier to remove people who don’t qualify.

The officials said more details would be released in the coming weeks.

It’s not the first time the Trump White House has come out with an immigration plan. A “four pillars” proposal last year fell by the wayside after Republicans failed to get behind corresponding legislation. This time, the White House is taking a more hands-on process, drafting legislative text itself.

Trump has been furious about the spike in Central American migrant families trying to enter the U.S. His administration has been frantically looking for ways to limit the numbers.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters after a Senate briefing Tuesday that White House officials seemed “well on their way” to winning consensus for a plan that would unite Republicans on the contentious issue.

Graham, who is close to Trump, rolled out his own proposal Wednesday to address a recent flood of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. He said the proposal would make the U.S. a less attractive destination.

Under the plan, migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. would have to make their claims at processing centers in places such as Central American countries and Mexico, not in the U.S.

The proposed legislation would allow the U.S. to detain migrant families together for up to 100 days, compared with the current 20-day limit, add 500 new immigration judges to reduce a lengthy backlog, and let the U.S. deport unaccompanied minors from Central America to their home countries, as can currently be done for young people from Canada and Mexico.

Graham told reporters that he had urged Trump to try to cut a deal with Democrat and said he thought Trump was “open-minded to it.”

“I am urging the president to lead us to a solution,” he said.