Trump to propose plan to make U.S. immigration more merit-based

U.S. President Donald Trump will outline on Thursday a plan to harden border security and overhaul the legal immigration system to favor applicants who speak English, are well-educated and have job offers, senior administration officials said.

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.

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.

For decades, U.S. immigration laws have given priority to family-based immigration, and about two-thirds of all people granted green cards each year have family ties to people in the United States.

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. Instead, high-skilled people with jobs would be given priority, and could bring with them their spouses and children, the officials told reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday.

It would harden the border by building more of Trump’s coveted southern border wall and improve inspections of goods and people at ports of entry to fight drug smuggling. It would propose an increase in fees collected at the border to pay for border security infrastructure.

“Our goal in the short term is to make sure that we are laying out what the president’s policy is in terms of what he’s looking for from immigration reform, and we would like to see if we could get the Republican Party to come together on these two pillars, which we think is a very, very logical, very mainstream point of view,” said one official.

Trump will present an overview of the plan, with details of the “very large document” to be released in coming weeks, the official said.

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