May 17, 2019
When the two parties get together to talk about immigration, most of the fireworks are over illegal immigration. But there's another problem in our system that this president wants to address -- and that's the process for entering legally. As one senior administration official put it, our immigration system, is "basically a coat of paint on top of a coat of paint on top of a coat of paint -- what we want to do is sand it down." This week, the president put on his work gloves and introduced a plan to do exactly that.
After 50-plus years, our immigration system is starting to show some wear and tear. The world has changed -- and it's time our policies do too. Last week, I joined a White House working group on the president's new ideas for updating how we treat immigrants, and it's obvious his plan was designed to find common ground. As my good friend Rev. Franklin Graham wrote, how could anyone -- Democrat or Republican -- be against this? The administration is talking about fully securing the border, protecting American wages, attracting and retaining the best and brightest, unifying families, and finding labor for critical industries."
One of the most important things to understand about the administration's plan is that it doesn't change how many legal immigrants come into the country, but it does change who they are. As the president said, "We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages and safety of American workers first. Our proposal is pro-America, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker... We discriminate against genius. We discriminate against brilliance. We won't anymore once we get this passed."
Thursday afternoon, I talked with Ja'Ron Smith, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Office of American Innovation about what the plan means. When you drill down on our current system, one of the most surprising things about the United States and other countries like Canada and the U.K. is that only about 12 percent of our legal immigrants have been based on job skills. Under this plan, that number would rise to 57 percent -- meaning that the people coming into the country have a much better chance of getting a job, going to work, and being productive.
Right now, Ja'Ron explained, "[Under] the system that we currently have in place... you have to a) be able to hire a lawyer to go through the lottery process that will secure you [a spot]; or b) have some extended family member that lives here. And that's not fair. And in fact, we don't even get an opportunity to attract some of the brightest from some of the most diverse countries, because they don't have a founding member here. And maybe they can't afford one of the lawyers." There's a way, he points out, to keep America safe while also attracting people who have something to offer.
Another major selling point of the proposal is that it cuts "family-based immigration" from 66 percent to 33. What does that mean? It means that the president wants to prioritize the nuclear family, instead of letting second and third cousins ride the coattails of their legal relatives in the U.S. He wants the focus to be spouses and children -- and that radically changes who comes into our country. In a lot of cases, Ja'Ron said, some of the closest family members are caught up in backlogs. "And that hasn't created a fair system for many families who will want to come into America."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.