Trump Will Propose Merit-Based Immigration System


Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. May 16, 2019

​President Donald Trump will outline his immigration reform proposal this afternoon in a plan that would favor foreign nationals' job skills over family ties in the U.S. In a preview of the plan yesterday, administration officials said that the new immigration system would award the same number of green cards—permits allowing foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the U.S.—as it now does, but that far more would go to exceptional students, professionals and people with vocational degrees, according to U.S. News & World Report. Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would be considered.

We've rounded up articles from SHRM Online and other trusted news sources for more information on the immigration reform proposal.

Number of Green Cards Would Not Change

Under the proposal, there would be no reduction in overall legal immigration. The plan instead would focus on reducing family-based immigration in favor of employment-skill-based immigration. The proposal seeks to attract and retain the best and brightest immigrants while stemming the flow of low-wage labor. "We want to show the country that Republicans are not against immigrants," an administration official said.


Guest-Worker Programs, DACA Are Not Addressed

The immigration proposal reportedly does not specifically address guest-worker programs, such as H-1B visas, or people living in the U.S. illegally. Some senators said the immigration proposal must include provisions on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that exempts immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors from deportation and grants them work permits, but the proposal doesn't yet. The White House official briefing reporters on the proposal said it was a starting point before dealing with more contentious issues.

(The Hill)

Proposal Bears Similarities to RAISE Act

The proposal is similar in some ways to a merit-based bill, the RAISE Act, floated by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., two years ago. That bill would have resulted in much less employer control over the selection of foreign workers who immigrate to the United States. Instead, government agencies would create a merit-based points system and award employment-based green cards to foreign nationals. The RAISE Act also would have reduced overall legal immigration by 50 percent within 10 years.

(SHRM Online)

Merit-Based Proposal Called 'Campaign Document'

Some believe the immigration proposal is more of a rallying point to help unify Republicans heading into the 2020 presidential election. Without addressing the fate of those who benefit from DACA—often referred to as "Dreamers"—the plan is unlikely to win the support of Democrats. "We want to have a Republican Party unifying around these positions," one White House official said. "The president is not scared of immigration as a political issue."

(USA Today)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Complying with I-9 and E-Verify Requirements in the United States]

Mandatory E-Verify May Be Considered as Part of Plan

The White House has considered making E-Verify mandatory in its immigration reform proposal. Trump had mandatory E-Verify—the government's electronic system that allows businesses to check the work authorization of their employees—in his immigration platform when he ran for president. But some say E-Verify may become part of a separate legislative effort. Talks about whether E-Verify would be included in the immigration reform proposal reportedly still were up in the air as of last Thursday.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform Is Tall Order

No major immigration bill has passed Congress in three decades. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both proposed overhauls of the immigration system as well, but neither were enacted. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump has not talked to Democrats about the plan and doubted that Democrats would support it. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that Trump's proposal is "not designed to become law" and put forward his own immigration reform bill.

(The Washington Post)


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