President Donald Trump will announce on Thursday a legal reform that, if approved by Congress (and it does not seem easy, by the reluctance of the Democrats and the skepticism of the Republicans to date), would completely revolutionize the US immigration system.
Its approval, in any case, may not be necessary, since Trump could be using his plan to win reelection in 2020, even knowing that it is not politically viable.
What is the plan, designed by your son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, for four months of work?
Currently, the United States grants 1.1 million permanent residence visas (“ green cards” ) per year. The majority (66%) are family reunification visas , that is, citizens and residents who bring children, parents, siblings, etc. into the country. 12% are visas for job offers , and the remaining 22% are for humanitarian reasons (for refugees, for example) or randomized through what is known as the “diversity lottery.”
With the new White House reform plan, the total number of permanent residence visas would not change, but there would be a recomposition of who and how many would enter the country in each category.
Family reunification visas would fall by half , from 66% to 33%. That is, they would spend approximately 725,000 to 360,000 a year. That will probably mean reducing cases in which you can get the green card for a family member, as the Trump administration had tried before, which calls this “chain immigration”.
Visas for employment links would increase from 12% to 57%, that is, from approximately 130,000 to 630,000 per year.
Finally, the rest of visas would fall from 22% to only 10%, that is, from 240,000 to 110,000 a year, which would probably affect both the diversity lottery and visas for humanitarian reasons.
With the goal of attracting “the best of the best,” the plan requires that applicants undergo a civic examination and a medical and criminal background check, in addition to adding “points” based on their age, mastery of the English, job offer or investments for job creation in the US, and educational and vocational certifications.
Regarding border security , the plan foresees the construction of physical barriers at 33 strategic points along the border, and would allow the “rapid deployment” of security at the ports of entry, now collapsed by the arrival of asylum seekers.
It would also establish a “sustainable fund” to modernize all border infrastructure and ports of entry into the country.
The plan omits dreamers , which could hinder the support of Democrats. Young people who arrive in the country illegally from their parents’ hands when they were children face deportation if the Supreme Court, as it seems predictable, supports the end of the “deferred action” program that has protected them so far ( DACA ).
“I don’t think [the plan] is designed to achieve democratic support so much as to unite Republicans in border security,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, an ally of the president. Trump could thus use this reform as a campaign platform in the face of the 2020 elections , with no clear or viable intention to really push it forward, reports the NBC network .
Nor are the TPS beneficiaries mentioned , that is, the “Temporary Protection Status”, which the Government is finalizing but which is currently in dispute in the courts. And omit solutions to the rest of the undocumented population.
The officials explained that the plan focuses on border security and permanent residence visas based on merits, and leaves the rest of the temporary visas unchanged.
Mixed reactions before formal deployment
If the White House intended to use the plan as a probe balloon, the reactions reflected the enormous task that will lie ahead to seek bipartisan support.
Activists and experts consulted by Telemundo News said the plan falls short of the enormous dysfunction of the battered immigration system.
Sulma Arias, director for Immigration issues at Community Change Action, said pro-immigrant groups like his “fight for progressive solutions that are inclusive and humane for immigrant communities.”
That plan, in his opinion, must include a “road map for full citizenship for the millions of immigrants and refugees who have built their lives in this country,” including dreamers, and TPS beneficiaries.
“We want to build a United States that truly lives up to its values, that keeps families free and united,” said Arias, noting that the Administration has done nothing but “attack immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. “
Immigration lawyer Gunther Sanabria said that Kushner “lives in his own fantasy” and predicted that the plan “will not seek the bipartisan support he needs.”
“Excluding the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who qualify for DACA and TPS not only shows ignorance about the issue but it is also a bargaining point. What Kushner is looking for is Trump’s acceptance, when he should focus is on the approval of the millions of voters in 2020. ”Sanabria added.
Alfonso Aguilar, president of the “Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles”, participated in the White House consultations, and said the plan is “constructive” and responds to the needs of the economy.
For now, the new plan also has no cost, no date for formal submission to Congress, nor a schedule for eventual debate and voting.
The officials insisted that the plan will serve as a starting point for a dialogue on immigration reform, and that the country will continue to be the one that receives the most refugees, in addition to contributing more than half a billion dollars to the economy in a decade.
However, it is not clear that the plan covers all sides of the thorny immigration debate, or that Congress addresses the issue in the face of the 2020 general elections.
Meanwhile, pro-immigrant groups, including those led by Arias, have promised to take their battle for them to the polls next year.