indica News Bureau-
US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced what he described a merit-based immigration system to allot Green Cards or permanent legal residency to foreign nationals, a move that would benefit hundreds and thousands of Indian professionals and skilled workers whose current waiting period for a Green Card on an average is more than a decade.
But the immigration policy is unlikely to see the Congressional node soon, given the bitter across the aisle political divide between the Democrats, who have a majority in the House of Representatives and the Republicans who control the Senate.
Trump, in his Rose Garden announcement, himself conceded the difficulties ahead in getting his plan the law of the day. Signaling to make it an election issue next year, Trump said that the Republicans need to regain control of the House, retain a majority in the Senate and he himself be re-elected to the White House. Notably, America’s last immigration overhaul was 54 years ago.
Ruing that the current system of legal immigration has failed to retain and attract the talent and brilliant young people from across the globe, Trump said that he is proposing a merit-based immigration system wherein permanent legal residency would be given based on points for their age, knowledge, job opportunities and their civic sense. Future immigrants, he said would have to pass English and civics tests.
“Under the senseless rules of the current system, we’re not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world, anybody. We’re not able to take care of it. We’re not able to make those incredible breakthroughs. If somebody graduates top of their class from the best college, sorry, go back to your country. We want to keep them here,” he said in a major Rose Garden speech.
As a result, companies are moving offices to other countries because US immigration rules prevent them from retaining highly skilled and even if they are totally brilliant people. “We discriminate against genius. We discriminate against brilliance. We won’t anymore once we get this past, and we hope to get it passed as soon as possible,” he said.
Some of the most skilled students at US’s world-class universities are going back home because they have no relatives to sponsor them here in the United States, and that’s the only way. “We want these exceptional students and workers to stay and flourish and thrive in America,” he said amidst applause from the audience.
As a result of this broken rules, the annual green card flow is mostly low-wage and low skilled, he alleged. Newcomers compete for jobs against the most vulnerable Americans and put pressure on the social safety net and generous welfare programs, he noted.
Observing that only 12 percent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or based on merit, he said in countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and others, that number is closer to 60 percent, and even 70 percent and 75 percent in some cases. “The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 percent to 57 percent, and we’d like to even see if we can go higher,” he said.
“This will bring us in line with other countries and make us globally competitive,” Trump said. At the same time, the US will prioritize the immediate family of new Americans, spouses, and children, he said.
Every year the US issues nearly 1.1 million Green Cards, which gives foreign nationals lifetime permission to live and work in the US and a path to citizenship in five years. Currently, most of these are issued based on family links and diversity visa, and a small section is given to people who are professionals and highly skilled. Trump said he wants to change this.
“Our proposal fulfills our sacred duty to those living here today while ensuring America remains a welcoming country to immigrants joining us tomorrow. And we want immigrants coming in. 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,” Trump said in a major immigration policy address in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The White House plan makes no change to the number of green cards allocated each year. “But instead of admitting people through random chance, we will establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States. No matter where in the world you’re born, no matter who your relatives are, if you want to become an American citizen, it will be clear exactly what standard we ask you to achieve. It will be made crystal clear,” he said.
“This will increase the diversity of immigration flows into our country. We will replace the existing green card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa — which is what we all want to hear,” Trump said amidst applause from the audience.
“Like Canada and so many other modern countries, we create an easy-to-navigate points-based selection system. You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs,” he said.
In the absence of such a system, Trump said America is losing people that want to start companies, and, in many cases, they’re forced to leave the country; go back, usually, to the country where they came from; and they’ll start up companies, and some of those companies are among the biggest and most successful companies today in the world.
“They could’ve started them right here in the United States, where they wanted to do it in the first place. Now they’ll have a chance,” he said. Priority will also be given to higher-wage workers, ensuring we never undercut American labor. To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient, he said.
“Finally, to promote integration, assimilation, and national unity, 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 culture, our traditions, and our values,” Trump said.
Reaction showed a bitter political divide.
Congressman Mike Rogers, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that a White House plan to boost border security and reform the immigration system is a welcome step.
“The administration isn’t able to go it alone – Congress must carry out its Constitutional duty to legislate to address the serious challenges at our southwest border. I am hopeful this proposal will open negotiations. We must address the growing humanitarian and national security crisis,” Rogers said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer dubbed it as a political document. “(This) isn’t a serious attempt at immigration reform; if anything, it’s a political document that is anti-immigration reform,” he alleged on the Senate floor. “It repackages the same partisan, radical anti-immigrant policies that the administration has pushed for the two years – all of which have struggled to earn even a simple majority in the Senate let alone 60 votes,” he said.
Aware of his critics, Trump asserted that his proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker. “It’s just common sense. It will help all of our people, including millions of devoted immigrants, to achieve the American dream,” he claimed.
Trump said his plan stops illegal immigration and fully secures the border. It establishes a new legal immigration system that protects American wages, promotes American values, and attracts the best and brightest from all around the world.
“The proposal begins with the most complete and effective border security package ever assembled by our country or any other country, for that matter,” he said.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer described Trump’s proposal a non-starter. “President Trump’s proposal is based on a set of falsehoods aimed at only allowing immigrants from certain favored nations or backgrounds,” he said.
“This new proposal is a non-starter and another example of how this President continues to base his immigration policies on xenophobic and false stereotypes about immigrants from certain parts of the world. America is great because it has the capacity to welcome new immigrants and new ideas. If we close ourselves off from the world, shut ourselves in with walls and closed minds, we do so at our own peril and at the expense of the better future we forfeit,” Hoyer said.