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President Donald Trump unveiled his new immigration plan Thursday, which will focus on border security and a merit-based legal immigration system.
“Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker,” the president said during an event in the White House Rose Garden. “It’s just common sense.”
To secure the border, Trump’s plan calls for infrastructure, or a wall, at 33 strategic locations, modernized ports of entry, and expediting immigration court proceedings and removal processes. Trump said the plan will also create a self-sustaining “border security trust fund,” generated from funds collected from border crossings.
The president promised that asylum claims will be expedited, stating “if you have a proper claim you will be quickly admitted … If you don’t, you will promptly be returned home,” but he did not offer explicit details as to how he plans to speed up the process.
The administration also hopes to revamp the visa system to reward highly-skilled immigrants, although the plan does not reduce the overall levels of legal immigration to the United States.
More visas will be awarded to immigrants who are younger workers, have valuable skills, have an offer of employment, have an advanced education, and earn higher wages. Applicants will also be required to be financially self-sufficient, speak English, and pass a civics exam. Trump described the new program as an “easy-to-navigate points-based system.”
The new system is called the “Build America Visa.”
Trump said the proportion of visas that go to highly-skilled immigrants will jump from 12% to 57%.
“Random selection is contrary to American values and blocks out many qualified potential immigrants from around the world,” Trump said. “This will bring us in line with other countries and make us globally competitive.”
The plan was initially written by senior advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, but the president insisted Thursday that the plan belongs to him.
Senior administration officials told reporters last week that the plan has six goals: securing the border, protecting American wages, attracting and retaining the best and brightest, unifying families, get labor in critical industries and retaining the United States’ humanitarian values.
At the time, officials declined to offer specific details about how the plan achieved those goals. Republican officials said that they were underwhelmed with Kushner’s understanding of the immigration plan during a Capitol Hill luncheon Tuesday.
“He’s in his own little world,” one individual familiar with the discussion told The Washington Post. “He didn’t give many details about what was in [his plan]. . . . And there were a number of instances where people had to step in and answer questions because he couldn’t.”
The plan notably does not include a plan to fix the DACA system, which the president said was intentionally left out in the hopes of uniting the GOP caucus around shared goals for immigration. However, without a DACA fix, any legislation based on the plan is likely dead on arrival for Democrats in the House.
The president is hoping his plan, if implemented, can help combat what he considers to be a crisis at the southern border. Illegal immigration to the U.S. is currently on track in 2019 to reach its highest level in a decade.