A plan announced by President Trump that calls for recalibrating the mechanics of admission in order to make it possible for more immigrants to be a part of the U.S. labor market is getting decidedly mixed reviews on Capitol Hill.
The plan would replace the current family-based immigration rules with a points-based system that will tilt in the direction of letting in more skilled and financially independent immigrants who can also speak English and pass a civics exam.
As proposed by the President, the plan would also create a separate program allowing some foreign students to obtain a worker visa immediately upon their graduation.
If enacted, said Trump, the plan would “transform America’s immigration system into the pride of the nation and the envy of the modern world.”
In a statement, Neil Bradley, executive vice-president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the plan is destined to spark a much needed debate on immigration law reform. “Much work remains ahead of us on several issues, including the creation of market-based temporary worker programs and responsibly addressing the unauthorized alien population in the U.S.”
While lauding Trump for “starting a discussion” on the issue, Steve Benjamin, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said any plan must include a “streamlined visa system that provides access to the agricultural, lower-skilled and high-skilled workers we need.”
Noting that the President’s plan, if enacted, would favor citizenship for the young, educated, and skilled, over others, California Senator Kamala Harris remarked: “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants. The beauty of the tradition of our country has been to say, when you walk through the door, you are equal.”
Analysts say the chances of Trump’s plan being approved by Congress in the year before a presidential election appear remote.
But Noah Smith, a finance professor at Stony Brook University, doesn’t think lawmakers should automatically dismiss the plan.
“The idea of shifting to a more merit-based legal immigration system is a good one,” writes Smith in a column for Bloomburg.com.
“Because the American public as a whole demands some sort of numerical limit on immigration,” continues Smith, “its probably good to make sure that a high percentage of those immigrants have employable skills that will allow them to thrive in the U.S., and to help the U.S. maintain its technological dominance.”
Four previous immigration reform proposals were defeated last year in the U.S. Senate, including one with strong bi-partisan support that fell short of the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
By Garry Boulard
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