Immigration proposal: Focus on merit?
“Immigration should serve American interests first and foremost,” said Kevin Williamson in NationalReview.com, and President Trump’s new proposal does just that. The centerpiece of Trump’s immigration overhaul unveiled last week is a merit-based system that prioritizes highly skilled workers such as “doctors and software engineers” over the beneficiaries of “chain migration”—people given a visa so they can join family members in the U.S. Under our current system, most legal immigrants get here through family ties, whereas just 12 percent of immigrants enter because of job experience or education credentials attractive to U.S. employers. Trump’s plan would basically “reverse these proportions.” The demand for skilled workers far exceeds the current annual visa quota of 140,000, said Helen Raleigh in TheFederalist.com. Trump would expand that to 600,000, thus favoring “the most likely productive potential citizens.”
This is hardly a “grand bargain” on immigration, said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. Trump’s proposal would give him funding for a wall and make asylum more difficult to secure, but doesn’t even “gesture” toward Democratic priorities. “Crucially,” the plan offers no protections for “Dreamers”—migrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children—or millions of other undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Republican hard-liners don’t like this bill, either, because they just want fewer immigrants of any kind. This political dud was supposedly the masterwork of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, said Jonathan Blitzer in NewYorker.com. In a strategy session with Republicans, “Kushner struggled to answer even the most basic questions” about his own proposal. No Republican is taking Jared—or his plan—seriously.
No wonder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the plan “dead on arrival,” said Omer Aziz in The New York Times. That said, “the vicious cycle of unlawful migration and heightened xenophobia” got Trump elected, and Democrats can’t get away with just “an outright rejection” of his proposals. Democrats need a coherent plan of their own—one that provides “a workable path to citizenship” for the undocumented immigrants already here, as well as a strategy to fix the overburdened asylum system. To defuse Trump, Democrats should also agree to a merit-based system, which most Americans view as “reasonable.” Immigration reform will generate widespread support only if it combines “compassion with common sense.”