Trump plan maintains legal immigration level, boosts number of skilled arrivals

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Immigration reform has been a top priority for President Donald Trump since before he took office, but since he’s received no cooperation from Democrats (and even some Republicans) he hasn’t been able to accomplish anything significant — yet.

Administration officials have now drafted a revised package of immigration reforms that have been presented to top Republicans for initial review. Under the new plan, which represents a bit of a departure for the president, legal immigration levels would remain roughly the same, but would be composed differently to include a larger number of skilled workers less likely to compete with Americans for low-wage jobs.

Kushner spearheads reform plan

Senior Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been a driving force in crafting the proposal, which aims to reduce illegal immigration, strengthen border security infrastructure incuding ports of entry, enhance drug interdiction efforts and shift legal immigration processes toward a more merit-based system.

An unnamed White House official told The Hill that the annual level of legal immigration — a little more than a million entries per year — would remain roughly the same, but would be composed of a different mix of people with greater emphasis on attracting individuals with demonstrated merit and those possessing in-demand job skills.

The administration official further stressed that the White House was working to reform legal immigration — though keeping the entry rate the same — in order to relieve pressure on low-skilled American workers by reducing the number of immigrants most likely to compete with them for low-wage jobs.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement, “President Donald J. Trump met with Republican Senators for an important and productive conversation on our Nation’s immigration policy. The President and Senators discussed a potential plan that would secure the border, protect and raise wages for the American worker, and move toward a merit based immigration system.”

Striking the right balance

Some have suggested that this new plan evidences somewhat of a reversal from President Trump’s prior position supporting a reduction in legal immigration levels in addition to a curbing of illegal immigration.

Historically speaking, even legal immigration is thought to place downward pressure on wages while increasing competition for low-skilled jobs.

That has certainly been the case in the past, and research has shown that there is indeed a correlation between each percentage point of growth in legal immigration and a concomitant drop in wages.

However, it appears that the White House is attempting to walk a fine line and buck that trend by shifting the composition of legal immigrants away from low-skilled workers to those with merit and pre-existing skills who would be far less likely to compete for low-wage jobs or be a burden on taxpayers.

Support growing among Republicans

The Washington Post reported that the Republicans who took part in the “productive” meeting with the White House to review the plan were generally pleased with the proposals, and that there were “large areas of agreement” identified.

It remains to be seen if there are enough sweeteners in the reform package to bring together not only the Republicans who hold different views on acceptable immigration levels, but the Democrats as well.

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