A new plan for immigration

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Friday, the 17th of May, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up today, a new plan for immigration reform.

Lawmakers have struggled for years to reach a consensus on comprehensive changes to the nation’s immigration system. Republicans insist on the need for tighter border security measures. Democrats say people who’ve lived here for decades should have the right to become citizens. And the two sides have remained largely in their respective corners.

BASHAM: On Thursday President Trump unveiled his own proposal to cut through at least part of the impasse. So what’s in it? WORLD Radio correspondent Anna Johansen has our story.

TRUMP: We’re here on this very beautiful spring day in the Rose Garden to unveil our plan to create a fair, modern, and lawful system of immigration for the United States. And it’s about time. [Applause]

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: President Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill applauded Thursday as he presented his latest plan for immigration reform.

The proposal has two main goals: tightening border security and reforming legal immigration.

TRUMP: [Applause] Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker. It’s just common sense.

It includes funding for a border wall. It also proposes massive changes to the visa entry program. Right now, most legal immigrants are allowed in based on family connections. The new policy would be merit-based, prioritizing skills and education.

TRUMP: 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.

The hope is that a merit-based system would strengthen the pool of workers and drive economic growth. The Trump administration estimates the plan would increase GDP and generate 500 billion dollars in tax revenue. Canada, New Zealand, and Japan all use similar systems.

The policy wouldn’t change the total number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. each year. That number would stay capped at about 1 million. So while skills-based immigration would increase, family sponsored immigration would decrease. And that doesn’t sit well with some people.

BIER: I don’t support eliminating the ability of US citizens to sponsor their immediate family members.

David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute. He says the plan is doable, but misses the mark in some areas.

BIER: Nearly half of all new legal immigrants through these family sponsored…categories had a college degree. So this is not as if, you know, you have a bunch of people who are coming over who are just all high school dropouts.

The plan also doesn’t address Dreamers: young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Critics say any immigration plan needs to provide them with a path to citizenship.

Even some Republicans are skeptical. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina doesn’t believe the White House policy will get very far. Instead, he has his own legislative plan aimed at relieving the backlog of asylum cases at the southern border.

But the Trump plan’s lack of support doesn’t bother its advocates. One senior official said their goal isn’t to get the plan signed into law. Instead, it’s to lay out the president’s priorities and set the stage for the 2020 campaign trail.

TRUMP: If for some reason, possibly political, we can’t get the Democrats to approve this merit-based high security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the election when we take back the house, keep the senate, and of course, hold the presidency.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) President Donald Trump speaks about modernizing the immigration system in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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