Posted on May 16, 2019

Trump Immigration Plan Sidesteps Immigrants Here Illegally, Draws Wide Criticism from Both Sides

John Fritze et al., USA Today, May 16, 2019

President Donald Trump’s new immigration proposal began drawing fire from all sides of the political spectrum Thursday with Democrats dismissing it as a campaignstatement and some conservatives saying it doesn’t go far enough.

Crafted by the president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, the proposal would create a system to prioritize highly skilled immigrants but it glosses over concerns Trump has raised for years about immigrants slipping over the border and asylum seekers. {snip}

White House officials previously described the plan as an effort to rally Republicans heading into the 2020 election, and Trump appeared eager to score political points as he rolled out the proposal. He called on Democrats to work with the administration but said he would go it alone if they chose not to.


Trump said the proposal includes a trust fund, paid for by border fees, to finance border security. And the president said the plan would make changes to the nation’s asylum system, saying it would screen out “meritless claims” while expediting others. {snip}


What’s not included?

But the proposal {snip} is also silent on key issues:

  • A solution for “Dreamers,” the roughly 3.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. {snip}
  • A plan to deal with the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, which Trump has repeatedly threatened to deport since before taking office. {snip} But this latest proposal deals almost exclusively with legal immigration.
  • A solution for more than 300,000 foreign nationals who live legally in the U.S under the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows people to stay in the U.S. while their home countries recover from natural disasters and conflict. {snip}

Tough reaction

Democrats, predictably, were skeptical of the president’s motives and noted White House officials have acknowledged the effort is intended to rally Republicans ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the notion of creating a “merit” immigration system, a term Trump embraces, as “condescending.”


{snip} The Chamber of Commerce released a lukewarm assessment, saying it appreciated the effort but “much work remains ahead of us on several issues.”

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for lower levels of legal and illegal immigration and routinely advises the Trump administration on policy, said Kushner’s team should be praised for finally putting to paper ideas Trump has only talked about at campaign rallies.


Details unclear

Less clear is how the White House proposal would deal with the asylum system, which is codified in law and international treaties, but which the Trump administration has claimed is broken. Trump he wants to expedite legitimate claims but screen out those who claim asylum, enter the country and then do not appear for hearings to review their case.


White House officials told reporters earlier in the week that the proposal includes no changes to asylum. But Trump said in the Rose Garden that there would be significant changes to that system.

Other changes immigration experts say would be necessary to win bipartisan support include nationalizing the E-Verify program that allows U.S. companies to check the immigration status of job applicants. Immigrant advocates, meanwhile, have called for a comprehensive plan to include humanitarian assistance to migrants arriving in the U.S. and to the Central American countries they are fleeing.

Trump’s proposal would eliminate the so-called “visa lottery,” a program created in 1990 that attempts to balance where immigrants come from by granting green cards to some 50,000 people from regions that traditionally have fewer migrants. He also has railed against what critics describe as “chain migration,” in which immigration authorities prioritize the spouses and unmarried children of immigrants for green cards.