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Trump’s Immigration Plan Emphasizes Skills over Family Connections

The plan will bolster border security and create a merit-based system

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trump, immigration, skills, family
FILE - President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 9, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his long-awaited proposal on immigration Thursday, a plan that aims to move the immigration approval process away from family-ties and humanitarian needs.

In a briefing to reporters ahead of Trump’s scheduled afternoon remarks at the White House Rose Garden, a senior administration official said the plan will bolster border security and create a merit-based system, insisting that it is a “competitiveness issue.”

Trump’s proposal would keep the number of green cards or permanent residency issued around 1.1 million annually, but will change the focus of how they would be allocated, prioritizing highly skilled and educated individuals with employment or investment prospects rather than family ties to U.S. citizens or humanitarian needs.

Currently, 12% of immigrants are given permission to come to the U.S. based on their skills, and 66% because of their connection to family already in the country legally. Under the plan, 57% of immigrant visas will be given to individuals with skills or offers of employment, and only 33% to people with family ties. Visas given based on humanitarian needs will be reduced from 22% to 10%.

trump, plan, skills, family
FILE – A girl waves the Venezuelan flag during a visit to bid goodbye in her grandparents’ house, before her move to the U.S. after winning the green card lottery, in Valencia, April 6, 2014. VOA

The economic justification for eliminating or drastically reducing family-sponsored immigration is questioned by immigration analysts.

David Bier of the libertarian CATO Institute said that nearly half of family-sponsored immigrants have college degrees, a much higher rate than U.S.-born adults.

“The vast majority of U.S. legal immigrants are family-sponsored, yet the U.S. immigrant population works at higher rates than the U.S.-born population,” he said.

Bier said that adding more skilled immigration would benefit the United States but “there is no justification for that coming at the expense of family reunification.”

The plan will completely eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa program also known as the green card lottery, currently annually given to 50,000 people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The Build America Visa

The administration official described the heart of the proposal as the “Build America Visa,” with three main streams: “extraordinary talent; professional and specialized vocations; and, exceptional students.”

English fluency will be included as a factor determining whether an individual will be granted permanent residence.

“Language ability is a strong indicator of long-term economic success, not only for the initiating immigrant but for their children,” said the administration official, stressing that the merit-based system will lead to more diversity instead of reduce it.

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Immigration scholar Rick Su from the University of Buffalo disagrees.

“Depending on how that is measured, this will likely lead to less diversity,” he said. “There are a number of very talented individuals working in the U.S. now, and doing quite well, that would likely have less English language proficiency than those from Anglophone countries.”

David Bier pointed out that a points-based system would be dominated by the largest developing countries in the world, mostly Indians and Chinese.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “I see no economic or moral reason to select immigrants on the basis of their place of birth.”​

Dreamers ‘not contemplated’

The plan, developed by a team led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, is unlikely to receive support from Democrats, as it does not address the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

trump, plan, family, skills
FILE – Immigrant rights supporters gather at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sept. 26, 2017. VOA

The White House said Dreamers “are not being contemplated at this time” and acknowledged that the plan is just the first step in the process of an immigration overhaul, including in terms of rallying Republican support behind it.

The Trump administration attempted to end the Obama-era DACA program in 2017 and went through several legal challenges. The Supreme Court in January took no action on the Trump administration’s request to review DACA. This means the fate of the program, and its 70,000 recipients will not likely be determined until the court begins its new term in October.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Republican Senator Susan Collins also expressed reservations, saying “I am concerned about the fate of the DACA young people, and they cannot be excluded from any immigration package.”

Overhauling the nation’s immigration law has been an issue of contention between Republicans and Democrats for years. The battle has intensified since 2016 when Donald Trump ran for office on a pledge to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out migrants entering the country illegally. (VOA)

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Trump Defends Kim, Downplays Concern About North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump and his national security adviser are publicly at odds about the seriousness of the threat

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Trump, Kim, North Korea, Defends
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump upon his arrival at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, Chiba prefecture, Japan, May 26, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump and his national security adviser are publicly at odds about the seriousness of the threat currently posed by North Korea.

In a Sunday morning tweet from Tokyo, Trump issued a retort to John Bolton who the previous day here had told reporters that there was “no doubt” North Korea’s recent test firing of short-range ballistic missiles violated a United Nations resolution.

Bolton’s remark was the first by a U.S. official describing the North Korean launches as a violation of U.N. resolutions.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me,” said Trump in his tweet.

Trump, Kim, North Korea, Defends
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meet during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, Feb. 28, 2019. VOA

But some analysts say the missile launches are indeed a concern.

“It’s pretty clear the missile launch was a violation of U.N. sanctions, whatever the range. The reality is that U.S. forces and civilians in South Korea and Japan are already in range of North Koreans missiles, so accepting shorter or mid-range missiles puts the United States at risk, not to mention our allies Japan and the Republic of Korea,” Kevin Maher, a Washington security consultant and a former head of the State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs, told VOA. “These realities are inconvenient if the objective is to show a personal relationship with the dictator Kim Jong Un will stop North Korea’s continuing nuclear and missile programs.”

The U.S. president also expressed confidence the North Korean leader “will keep his promise to me” in moving toward denuclearization.

In the tweet, Trump also said he smiled when Kim called former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden “a low IQ individual.”

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The initial presidential tweet misspelled the Democratic Party presidential contender’s name as “Bidan” and was later replaced. And it was not Kim who made the disparaging remark about Biden, rather an unsigned commentary carried by North Korea’s central news agency, which referred to the American politician as a “fool of low IQ” and an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being.”

Trump concluded his tweet by stating that perhaps Kim was trying “to send me a signal” — apparently a reference that the leader in Pyongyang prefers to negotiate with the current American president over the opposition party’s top-polling contender.

Trump and Kim have held two summits, in Singapore and Hanoi. Neither has led to any significant breakthroughs, although the meetings were seen as reducing tensions between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations and whose leaders had never met before.

The United States and North Korea were belligerents in a three-year war in the early 1950s that devastated the Korean Peninsula. It ended with an armistice, but no peace treaty has ever been signed.

Bolton comment

Bolton, who 13 months ago replaced retired Army General H.R. McMaster as the president’s national security adviser, is known as a hardliner who distrusts Pyongyang’s intentions.

Trump, Kim, North Korea, Defends
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe play golf at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, Chiba prefecture, Japan May 26, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. VOA

North Korea has a long track record of violating international agreements and has repeatedly defied U.N. sanctions against its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Trump fired off his tweet shortly before taking a helicopter from Tokyo to the Mobara Country Club in nearby Chiba prefecture.

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Japanese Prime Minister Abe, dressed in a blue blazer and white pants, rolled up in a golf cart to meet Trump, who was wearing a red jacket and carrying a red hat in his hand.

After some hours on the golf course, the two leaders viewed bouts of sumo before the U.S. president awarded the large and heavy President’s Cup (quickly nicknamed the Trump Cup’) to champion Asanoyama, a 177-kilogram (390-pound) wrestler who clinched the Summer Grand Tournament the previous day.

Trump, Kim, North Korea, Defends
U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to present the President’s Cup to wrestler Asanoyama, the winner of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokigikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, May 26, 2019.U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to present the President’s Cup to wrestler Asanoyama, the winner of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokigikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, May 26, 2019. VOA

“That was an incredible evening at sumo,” Trump told reporters as he and first lady Melania Trump joined Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe for dinner at a Tokyo restaurant where the food is served on long paddles. Trump said he personally “bought that beautiful trophy, which you’ll have hopefully for many hundreds of years.”

Trump on Monday meets Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, who hosts a state dinner for the visiting president that evening. In between, Trump holds a formal meeting with Abe in which they are expected to discuss trade and defense matters.

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No quick breakthrough on trade is expected, although both leaders have expressed a desire for a bilateral trade pact after Trump pulled the United States out of the comprehensive 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership, which Tokyo had spearheaded with Washington under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Following the golf outing, Trump tweeted that no trade deal would be made until after July’s elections for some of the seats in the upper house of Japan’s Diet (parliament).

Trump, Kim, North Korea, Defends
U.S. President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, receives a plate of food from a chef as they and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe have dinner in Tokyo, May 26, 2019. VOA

Later at dinner, the president said, “the prime minister and I talked a lot today about trade and military and various others things. I think we had a very productive day.”

Before Trump departs Japan on Tuesday, he is to visit the naval base at Yokosuka to tour a Japanese helicopter carrier and address American service personnel in conjunction with the U.S. Memorial Day holiday (observed Monday). (VOA)