President Donald Trump introduced what he called a “big, beautiful, bold” plan to “transform America’s immigration system” from one of random entry to a meritocracy.
“Instead of admitting people through random chance, we will establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States,” Trump said Thursday in the Rose Garden.
“No matter where in the world you were born, no matter who your relatives are, if you want to become an American citizen, it will be clear exactly what standard we ask you to achieve. It will be made crystal clear,” Trump told an audience that included administration officials and Republican members of Congress.
The president noted that the last immigration overhaul happened 54 years ago. His plan would change the makeup of legal immigrants, but keep the total number at about 1.1 million a year.
During his remarks, Trump pointed to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who introduced a border security bill Wednesday, and said he hopes to see that bill pass in the interim.
The president acknowledged that “for some reason, possibly political,” his proposal wouldn’t immediately pass and would have to wait until after the 2020 election. Senior administration officials said Wednesday that a chief goal of the plan is to unify Republican support behind a set of common goals.
Several Democrats, such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., expressed immediate opposition to the Trump plan.
“The system will finally be fair, transparent, and promote equality for all,” Trump said.
The current system doesn’t attract the best immigrants, he said.
“We discriminate against brilliance,” he said. “We discriminate against genius.”
The portion of legal immigrants entering the country for job-related reasons would rise from 12% to 57% under the plan.
Family-based immigration, which currently makes up two-thirds of all immigration, would decrease to one-third. Admissions via asylum or diversity visa would decrease by more than half, from 22% to 10%.
The plan would prioritize spouses, children, and parents for family unification, but not extended family.
“Currently, 66% of immigrants come here on the basis of random chance, they are admitted solely because they have a relative in the United States, and it doesn’t really matter who that relative is,” Trump said. “Random selection is contrary to American values and blocks out many potential immigrants from around the world who have much to contribute.”
The president added: “Our proposal builds upon our nation’s rich history of immigration, while strengthening the bonds of citizenship that bind us together as a national family.”
The Trump plan would eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery system that admits about 55,000 people a year. However, a merit-based point system would take diversity from underrepresented countries into consideration.
New immigrants would be classified under extraordinary talent visas, professional vocation visas, and extraordinary student visas.
Visas would be issued on a point-based system, more in line with Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and other countries, officials said.
“Future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission,” Trump said.