President Donald Trump on Thursday formally rolled out his proposal to overhaul the country’s approach to immigration, saying the U.S. must prioritize younger and highly educated immigrants to “contribute more to our social safety net” and “restore the integrity of our broken asylum system.”
Trump also said the U.S. should crack down on asylum seekers, as migrant caravans continue to flow from Central America.
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“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,” Trump said in a Rose Garden speech. “My plan expedites relief for legitimate asylum seekers by screening out the merit-less claims. If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted. If you don’t, you will promptly be returned home.”
Immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship legally should also be held to a strict, point-based merit standard, Trump said. Under his plan, the younger and more educated a person is, the more likely they are to have their applications approved. Points would also be added for having a “valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education or a plan to create jobs.”
Immigrants would have to prove they’re financially self-sufficient, learn English, and pass a civics exam prior to entry into the country.
This plan would not change the overall number of immigrants allowed in the U.S. legally — only attempt to change the composition of immigration. It also wouldn’t address the illegal immigration population currently in the United States, an issue Trump has controversially railed about for years.
Also within his speech, Trump touched on the issue of security at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying the immigration proposal would ensure investment in technology that would “scan 100 percent of everything coming through.” This would largely be funded, he said, by fees and revenue generated at the border.
“Curbing the flow of drugs and contraband while speeding up legal trade and commerce, it’s the most heavily traded monetary border in the world, and it’s not even close,” Trump said. “Importantly, we’re already building the wall, and we should have close to 400 miles built by the end of next year and probably even more than that. It’s going up very rapidly.”
During the conclusion of his remarks, Trump laid the burden of moving this plan forward at the feet of Democrats — but challenged the notion they would keep control of the House much longer.
“And 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,” Trump said. “But wouldn’t it be nice to do it sooner than that?”
Democrats, for their part, said they’ve largely been left in the dark regarding Trump’s plan. “They haven’t even talked to Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters May 15.
Schumer said the president had solicited his opinion on the subject several weeks ago but had not followed through. “The president called me and said what can we do on immigration? I said, ‘Mr. President look at comprehensive immigration reform,’ and I sent it to him — I haven’t heard from him,” Schumer said.