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President Trump Unveils Sweeping Immigration Reform Plan

On May 16, 2019, during a speech in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump unveiled an ambitious “Bold Immigration Plan for the 21st Century” that would dramatically change the immigration law landscape in the United States. The multi-point plan calls for permanent funding and enhancement to border security, an overhaul of the nation’s asylum procedures, and a move to a more merit-based permanent immigration system. Even if this plan does not become law, it does provide a compelling view of the Trump Administration’s immigration goals and priorities.

  1. Enhancing Border Security

President Trump’s plan calls for the establishment of a “permanent, self-sustaining border security fund” that would be paid for through fees and revenues generated at ports of entry. According to the Trump Administration, this permanent fund would allow law enforcement to enhance and support border security without having to wait on Congress to allocate funds. Additionally, the Administration claims the fund would “make certain that 100 percent of people and goods entering the United States are properly inspected at the border.”

At this time, the Administration has not yet provided any specific details about the levels of fees that will be charged, how revenue will be generated, how the fund will be managed, or how the fund will ensure a 100 percent inspection rate. President Trump has consistently made border security a hallmark of his administration; therefore, it is likely this issue will remain a focus of immigration policy.

  1. Changes to the Asylum Process

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has very publicly criticized the nation’s asylum process, claiming that it has led to an influx of drugs and crime into the United States. It is therefore unsurprising that the President’s plan includes changes to this system. The plan, as outlined in May, does not provide much in the way of details, only declaring that the plan will “restore integrity to America’s exploited asylum process” and “expedite relief for legitimate asylum seekers.”

As with border security, it is likely that President Trump will continue to pursue changes to the asylum process, regardless of any future decision on his plan.

Merit-Based Focus to Permanent Immigration

Perhaps the most significant aspect of President Trump’s plan is a proposed overhaul of the system by which nearly 1.1 million foreign nationals apply for Permanent Residence to the United States each year.

Currently, each country is allotted a certain number of Permanent Resident statuses, or “Green Cards.” Within each country’s allotment falls the various family-based and employment-based immigrant preference categories.

The system, as it stands now, has traditionally led to a majority (approximately 57% in 2017) of Permanent Resident applications being family-based. This includes “immediate” family members of Permanent Residents and citizens, which include spouses, parents, and children under the age of 21; and “other” family members, which include siblings and adult children. A much smaller portion (approximately 12% in 2017) stems from employment-based applications. President Trump’s proposal seeks to establish a merit and skills-focused immigration system by essentially flipping the statistics so that 57 percent of applicants gain permanent admission through skills-based employment. It would also bolster the current layers of protection for American jobs and wages, including recruitment requirements, displacement prohibitions, and wage floors.

Under the Trump Administration’s proposal, a new “Build America Visa” would be established and applicants for Permanent Residency would be subject to a points-based system that favors education, employment potential, and age. Additionally, all applicants would be required to pass a U.S. civics exam and demonstrate English proficiency (similar to what is currently required of applicants for U.S. citizenship). According to the Administration, such a policy will give “priority to young applicants who are likely to build long-term ties and contribute to our society over their lifetime.”

By establishing a points-based merit system, the plan would substantially change family-based immigration that is not directly tied to a “skilled” primary applicant who would petition for family members. According to the Trump Administration, this will prioritize immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It should be noted, however, that the term “immediate family members” under President Trump’s proposal does not appear to include parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, while current U.S. policy considers parents to be immediate family.

Of note, Canada currently uses a points-based system, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, for express entry into Canada. In order to qualify, an applicant must have at least 67 out of 100 points, and can earn points in categories such as education, work experience, language skills, age, arranged employment in Canada, and adaptability to Canada.

What Does This All Mean?

While the Trump Administration has presented an ambitious and far-reaching plan, there is, realistically, little chance that it will become law in its present form. Such a plan would first have to successfully pass through Congress, which means passing the House of Representatives and the Senate. Since currently the Democratic Party controls the House, any chance of success would mean at least some Democratic support.

Since taking control of the House, Democrats have made it clear they will not be supportive of the President’s immigration agenda. Additionally, the plan faces strong criticism from some Republicans due to its failure to reduce overall immigration. This means the plan could also struggle in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Even though President Trump’s plan may not become law anytime soon, it nonetheless provides valuable insight into the Trump Administration’s current and future immigration policies. Additionally, the issues raised as part of the plan will almost certainly play a significant role in the upcoming presidential election in 2020.

What are your thoughts on these proposed changes? Comment below.

About The Grady Firm, P.C.

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The Grady Firm, P.C. attorneys help individuals, families, employees, business owners, and investors obtain non-immigrant and immigrant visas, as well and Green Cards and citizenship based on family relationships, investment, or employment. In addition, The Grady Firm attorneys help foreign entrepreneurs establish a U.S. presence, form a corporate entity, and obtain the appropriate visas for their owners and employees.

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