Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.
For most of the last 20 years, politicians in the United States have discussed the concept of “comprehensive immigration reform” – what most people think of as the adoption of a complete overhaul of the US immigration system, dealing with all of increased border security, illegal immigrants already in the country, future legal immigration rules, and other immigration law-related matters, all in 1 sweeping piece of legislation. The fact that this issue is still being discussed in year 2019 evidences that no “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation has yet been approved by Congress and the various Presidents over the last 2 decades.
Part of the difficulty in reaching consensus on this issue is that politicians cannot even agree on what specific problems should be addressed as part of “comprehensive immigration reform”. On May 16, President Trump presented a new immigration plan as his version of how to approach the issue of “comprehensive immigration reform”.
Speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Trump stated that his new immigration “plan achieves two critical goals. First, it stops illegal immigration and fully secures the border. And, second, it establishes a new legal immigration system that protects American wages, promotes American values, and attracts the best and brightest from all around the world”.
In terms of “illegal immigration”, President Trump declared, “The proposal begins with the most complete and effective border security package ever assembled by our country – or any other country, for that matter. . . . Investment in technology will ensure we can scan 100 percent of everything coming through, curbing the flow of drugs and contraband, while speeding up legal trade and commerce. . . . To make certain that we are constantly making the upgrades we need, our proposal creates a permanent and self-sustaining border security trust fund.
Moreover, this will be finalized by the fees and revenues generated at the border crossings itself. Importantly, we’re already building the wall, and we should have close to 400 miles built by the end of next year, and probably even more than that. . . . As we close the gaps in our physical framework, we must also close the gaps in our legal framework.
However, critical to ending the border crisis is removing all incentives for smuggling women and children. . . . We must also restore the integrity of our broken asylum system. . . . My plan expedites relief for legitimate asylum seekers by screening out the meritless claims. If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted; if you don’t, you will promptly be returned home. Crucially . . . our plan closes loopholes in federal law to make clear that gang members and criminals are inadmissible. . . . And for criminals already here, we will ensure their swift deportation”.
In terms of “a new legal immigration system”, President Trump declared, “Our plan includes a sweeping modernization of our dysfunctional legal immigration process. . . . As a result of our broken rules, the annual green card flow is mostly low-wage and low-skilled. . . . Only 12 percent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or based or merit. . . . The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 percent to 57 percent, and we’d like to even see if we can go higher. . . . The White House plan makes no change to the number of green cards allocated each year.
But, instead of admitting people through random chance [“they have a relative in the United States” or “either by random lottery, or because they are fortunate enough to be selected for humanitarian relief”], we will establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States. . . . We will replace the existing green card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa . . . Like Canada and so many other modern countries, we create an easy-to-navigate points-based selection system.
Therefore, you will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs. . . . Priority will also be given to higher-wage workers, ensuring we never undercut American labor. To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient. Finally, to promote integration, assimilation, and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission”.
In the end, Democrats, who, as a practical matter, would have to support President Trump’s new immigration plan for it to become law today, did not offer favorable comments on it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on May 16 described President Trump’s plan as “dead on arrival” and “not a remotely serious proposal”. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar on May 16 tweeted, “The President’s immigration proposal continues to fail DREAMers, does not address our refugees and asylum seekers and provides no path to citizenship. This plan is far from comprehensive”.
Whether through President Trump’s new immigration plan or other proposals, legislative change, whether as “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation or as more “piecemeal, single issue” laws, if enacted, can materially modify the playing field for immigrants. For many years now, The Law Offices of Kameli and Associates has regularly tracked immigration law-related proposals from Congress and various Presidents. If you have any questions on any proposed change in US immigration law, including President Trump’s new immigration plan, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-233-1000, for assistance.