Trump’s Plan To Reform Legal Immigration Is Long Overdue
Trump’s Plan To Reform Legal Immigration Is Long Overdue By John Daniel Davidson for The Federalist
The immigration plan President Trump unveiled in a speech yesterday afternoon seems to have something in it for everyone to hate. Immigration hardliners on the right are upset it doesn’t include a reduction in overall immigration levels. Opponents on the left—who were never going to support a Trump plan, regardless of its merits—say it’s a non-starter because it doesn’t include a path to citizenship for those who illegally crossed the border as minors.
But this lack of support says more about the irreconcilable differences between left and right than it does about the virtues of the proposal itself, which are considerable.
At its most basic level, Trump’s plan aims to reshape our immigration system by prioritizing employment instead of family reunification. Other elements to the plan include bolstering border security and reforming the asylum system, but the most important proposed change is the shift to a “merit-based” system for legal immigration.
Why is that such a big deal? Because the United States, unique among developed countries, maintains a quixotic and outdated immigration system—created in 1965—in which the vast majority of immigrants are admitted through family reunification, often referred to as “chain migration,” and for good reason. If someone comes to the United States on a work visa, he can sponsor his adult parents, who in turn can sponsor their relatives, and so on. When Trump said in his speech Thursday that we’re admitting people based on “random chance,” this, along with our visa lottery system, is what he’s talking about.
Countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Japan don’t do this. They use a points-based system that prioritizes visas for certain kinds of workers. In Canada, for example, there’s no visa lottery, and the vast majority of immigrants are admitted as part of economic programs to meet skills shortages in the labor market. The Canadian points-based system includes categories like education, proficiency in English and French, age, and work experience. Same with Australia and the United Kingdom.
Trump is essentially proposing such a system for the United States. His plan envisions a “Build America visa” that incorporates parts of Sen. Tom Cotton’s 2017 RAISE Act, awarding points based on things like age, special skills, a job offer, an advanced education, and a plan to create jobs.