Trump to propose overhaul of US immigration system

A Honduran migrant chants slogans during a demonstration outside the U.S. consulate in Tijuana Mexico Tuesday Dec. 11 2018. Migrants want U.S. authorities to speed up the asylum application process for members of migrant caravans seeking to enter the

A Honduran migrant chants slogans during a demonstration outside the U.S. consulate in Tijuana Mexico Tuesday Dec. 11 2018. Migrants want U.S. authorities to speed up the asylum application process for members of migrant caravans seeking to enter the

US President Donald Trump will roll out a new plan to change US immigration laws in order to increase the number of high-skilled migrants entering the United States and to grant entry based on a point-based system, the Washington Examiner reported.

Trump is scheduled to use a Rose Garden speech on Thursday to throw his support behind a plan developed by his son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, to move USA immigration toward a "merit-based system" that prioritizes high-skilled workers.

While its chances of approval by Congress seem distant, the plan will give Republicans an outline they can say they favor as Trump and lawmakers look toward the November 2020 presidential and congressional elections, where immigration will likely be a key issue. Aides said the plan would call for modernizing legal ports of entry to help prevent illicit drugs and human trafficking, while also proposing to changes to USA asylum laws - something Democrats have called a non-starter.

Trump will present an overview of the plan, with details of the "very large document" to be released in coming weeks, the official said. But far more would go to exceptional students so they can remain in the country after graduation, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees.

Under the Trump plan, merit-based visas would rise to more than half.

Trump's immigration proposal, the product largely of senior advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller and economic aide Kevin Hassett, is an effort to rally Republicans on an issue that has often divided them.

Now about two-thirds of immigrant visas are doled out based on family ties, while only a little more than 10 percent go to employment-based visas. Kushner has told other White House officials that Trump's speech can set a different tone for the president on immigration, with the president laying out what he supports rather than reiterating the kind of immigration he opposes. The diversity visa lottery, which offers green cards to citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the USA, would be eliminated.

"I realize that this process has got to have some Democratic buy-in", Graham said. A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on the speech.

Trump's plan would keep legal immigration steady at 1.1 million people a year, but family-based immigration would account for only a third of that.

Indeed, the plan drew immediate criticism from Democrats as well as immigration activists, who remain deeply skeptical of Trump after past negotiation failures.

"We want to start by trying to anchor the discussion by defining border security, defining what the legal immigration should be and then seeing if we can unite Republicans around it and then also unite Republicans around the fact that we're not looking to change the number of legal immigration", one of the officials said.

Republicans on the Hill, too, voiced skepticism, even as administration officials insisted the plan had been embraced by those who briefed on it.

Graham, who rolled out his own proposal Wednesday to address the recent flood of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. -Mexico border, said he had advised Trump to try to cut a new deal with Democrats and believed Trump was open to that.

"I am urging the president to lead us to a solution", he said.

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