New York — Immigration advocacy and legal groups are criticizing President Donald Trump’s latest plan that would increase border wall funding and decrease family-based migration.
His proposal, announced in the White House Rose Garden last week, consists of significant changes to America’s legal immigration system that would limit the number of visas given through family relationships or a random lottery and instead prioritize immigrants with high-level skills, degrees and job offers. The administration said currently about 66 percent of green cards are given to those with family in the United States and 12 percent based on skills or merit.
But under Trump’s plan, those selected on skill or merit would increase to 57 percent.
“Under the senseless rules of the current system, we’re not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world,” Trump said in his speech.
While the proposal does not suggest there will be a reduction in the number of green cards awarded each year, it does seek to make English proficiency a requirement for the card. Right now, it’s only needed for citizenship. It’s a move that could “definitely change the racial makeup of who's coming here,” said Peter Isbister, an attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Antonio Arellano, communications director at Jolt, a Texas-based Latino youth organization, called Trump’s proposed reforms “bigoted.”
“We think this is racism in disguise,” Arellano said. “It is not appropriate for the nation that has been coined as the country of opportunity, immigrants, and freedom to be proposing or peddling this type of legislation that seeks to limit access to our country to the most vulnerable, like asylum seekers and refugees.”
Trump’s new proposal also includes additional border wall funding and plans to decrease drug flow into the United States. Trump says there should be close to 400 miles of the wall built by the end of 2020.
The president made no mention of DACA or any plans for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and individuals who have received temporary protected status.
As of now, Trump’s proposed reforms remain just that — proposals. No member of Congress has put forward legislation containing the president’s most recent announcement. Democrats would be unlikely to support the changes, and it’s unclear whether the proposal would receive support from all Republican lawmakers.
“There needs to be a serious pushback from both political parties,” Arellano said. “I think Republicans know better, and if they seek to retain power and influence, they cannot back something so divisive and something that will clearly paint them as an anti-immigrant party.”
Many are suggesting Trump’s proposals, as outlined, won’t reach his desk in a bill anytime soon and that they’re a tool for his 2020 campaign.
“I think he needs to run on it, and those like me who think it’s a pretty good idea will run on it, and when we win the election, he can claim a mandate and hopefully get something done,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told Bloomberg.
But some immigration advocates are still concerned about the implications of the proposal, even if it doesn’t become law.
“I worry about it creating a situation where Republicans believe we need to move to a merit-based system,” Isbister said. “I think that’s a dangerous place to be in particularly without any conversation about it because the family-based immigration system is so central to who we are as a country.”