Setting aside some of his hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he wanted to recruit “top talent” to the nation as he unveiled his latest efforts to reform residency laws after years of setbacks and stalemates.
“We discriminate against genius,” Trump said of current policies, which he contended excessively favor family based immigration. “We discriminate against brilliance. We won’t anymore once we get this passed.”
The latest effort, spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, focuses on beefing up border security and rethinking the nation’s green card system so that it would favor people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers instead of relatives of those already in the country. The proposed shift to a more merit-based system prioritizing high-skilled workers would mark a dramatic departure from the nation’s largely family based approach, which officials said gives roughly 66% of green cards to those with family ties and 12% based on skills.
The president’s plan, unveiled in a Rose Garden ceremony, has yet to be embraced by his own party — let alone Democrats — and faces dubious prospects in a divided Congress. The show of magnanimity comes as Trump seeks to put a softer facade on the signature campaign issue from his first campaign as he eyes his 2020 reelection.
“Our plan is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker,” Trump said, adding that it contrasts with what he called Democrats’ support of “chaos.”
Efforts to overhaul the immigration system have gone nowhere for three decades amid deep partisan divisions. Prospects for an agreement seem especially bleak as the 2020 elections near, though the plan could give Trump and the GOP a proposal to rally behind, even as Democrats signaled their opposition.