by Thomas Mitchell
Minutes after President Trump announced in the Rose Garden this past week a plan to revise the priorities under which immigrants are accepted into the United States, Democrats and media outlets were calling his proposal dead on arrival, having no chance of being approved by Congress.
More’s the pity, Trump’s plan, though short on detail, outlines a path that would boost the economy and in the president’s words “establishes a new legal immigration system that protects American wages, promotes American values, and attracts the best and brightest from all around the world.”
Trump’s proposal would leave unchanged the number of people allowed to legally immigrate to this country — 1.1 million a year — but would drastically alter the criteria for entry. He said fully 66 percent of immigrants are added solely because they have a relative in the U.S. Apparently just about any shirttail relative qualifies. Trump would limit relatives to spouses and children.
The president then noted that only 12 percent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or merit, unlike Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which use merit as the chief criteria for 60 to 75 percent of their legal immigrants.
“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,” Trump said, being interrupted by applause. “This will bring us in line with other countries and make us globally competitive.”
Trump said that brilliant foreign graduates of our finest colleges every year are forced to return to their home countries because they have no relatives here to sponsor them. He said we should want exceptional students and workers to stay, flourish and thrive in America.
“As a result of our broken rules, the annual green card flow is mostly low-wage and low-skilled,” Trump said. “Newcomers compete for jobs against the most vulnerable Americans and put pressure on our social safety net and generous welfare programs.”
Should we be inviting people to come here who will be a drain on our economy or who will be a boost?
Trump’s answer to that question, “America’s immigration system should bring in people who will expand opportunity for striving, low-income Americans, not to compete with those low-income Americans.”
His plan, reportedly spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, would create a points-based selection system. Points would be awarded for being a younger worker who could contribute years of revenue for our social safety net. Points would be awarded for having an existing job offer, having a valuable skill, an advanced education and having a plan to create jobs. Also, priority would be given to higher-wage workers who would be self-sufficient.
“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,” Trump insisted.
As for the current problem with illegal immigration and smuggling of contraband, Trump proposes investing in technology that would scan 100 percent of traffic crossing our borders and continue building miles of barriers along the border, saying 400 miles of this barrier should be completed by the end of next year.
The president, again without addressing specifics, called for changing our current law, which provides incentives for smuggling women and children, noting that 65 percent of all border-crossers this year were either minors or adults traveling with minors. He also called for quickly reuniting unaccompanied children with their families in their home countries.
“We must also restore the integrity of our broken asylum system,” Trump stated. “Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions. Unfortunately, legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims — these are frivolous claims — to gain admission into our country.”
He said asylum abuse strains our public school systems, hospitals and shelters, draining funds that should go to helping Americans in poverty, the elderly and at-risk children.
The president’s critics were quick to fault him for not addressing the millions who are already here illegally, as well as those who were brought here illegally as children, the so-called Dreamers. That is easy enough to address. Let them apply for legal entry under the new point-based system.
Trump’s proposition merits serious consideration, not partisan dismissiveness.
A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.