(NBC News) – President Donald on Thursday unveiled a sweeping immigration proposal that would alter the way the U.S. allows in legal immigrants while beefing up border security, a plan he said “puts the wages and safety of Americans first.”
“Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker. It’s just common sense,” President Donald Trump said during a speech from the White House Rose Garden. He said his proposal would create a “fair, modern and lawful system of immigration” and was superior to Democratic proposals.
Trump’s plan, details of which were shared with NBC News a day earlier by senior administration officials, avoids hot-button immigration issues like the growing backlog of asylum-seekers and the status of so-called Dreamers and faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-controlled House and in the Senate, where Democratic votes would be needed to advance it.
Trump’s proposal would seek to create a merit-based immigration system — a change from the family-based immigration system currently in place. It would also put new requirements on immigrants seeking to enter the U.S. In addition to mandated checks like a health screening and background check, immigrants would be required to pass a civics test.
Under the plan, which was crafted by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, White House adviser Stephen Miller and economic adviser Kevin Hassett, the number of immigrants entering the country would neither increase nor decrease, but the composition would change.
Currently, based on White House estimates, about 12 percent of people obtaining green cards and citizenship do so based on “employment and skill,” while 66 percent enter based on family connections and 22 percent enter for humanitarian reasons and through the diversity lottery.
Under the White House plan, those numbers would change to 57 percent for employment and skill, 33 percent for family connections and 10 percent for everything else.
On border security, Trump called for scanning improvements at ports of entry, wall completion in 33 “designated and prioritized areas,” the creation of a fee-based “sustainable fund” to continue to modernize border infrastructure, and modifications to streamline the process for those seeking asylum in the U.S., including expedited adjudication of asylum hearings and “prompt removal of illegal border crossers,” officials told NBC News.