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President Trump Unveils New Immigration Program, Build America Visa

May 17, 2019
In an announcement Thursday, May 16, President Trump said the plan would create “a fair, modern, and lawful system of immigration for the United States.” Scant on policy details and process, and met with criticism from Democrats and Republicans, the new immigration plan shifts the focus of the U.S. immigration system to high-skilled worker opportunities.
At the onset, Mr. Trump stated the plan would stop illegal immigration and fully secure the border, as well as introduce a new legal immigration system to protect American workers and wages while attracting the best and brightest from around the world.
On Secure Borders

Related to border security, Trump referenced investments in scanning technologies, and the establishment of a self-sustaining “border security trust fund” financed by the fees and revenues generated at the border. Additionally, Trump referenced ongoing construction of a border wall. About unaccompanied children who enter the United States, Mr. Trump said the goal would be to humanely reunite them with their families back home—and rapidly.

The proposal would change the United States’ asylum system by “screening out meritless claims.” He went on to say, “If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted; if you don’t, you will promptly be returned home.” The speech did not detail how that process would be facilitated or evaluated.
On Legal Immigration
The plan also focuses on the legal immigration process, which President Trump called “totally dysfunctional.” In his proposal, the immigration system would favor the highly-skilled immigration population and shift the proportion of admitted highly-skilled immigrants from 12 percent to 57 percent of all admitted immigrants.
As it relates to family-based immigration, the new plan would prioritize immediate families of new Americans—their spouses and children.
As part of the focus on admitting high-skilled immigrants who can “expand opportunity for striving, low-income Americans, not … compete with those low-income Americans,” President Trump announced the Build America visa. The new visa would have a point system for variables like youth, valuable skill sets, offers of employment, advanced education, or an opportunity to create other jobs. Mr. Trump continued, “to promote integration, assimilation, and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission.”
This White House plan does not change the number of green cards allocated each year but would change the profile of the admitted immigrants. As previously reported, the proposal would eliminate the “diversity visa lottery,” instead allocating the 50,000 visas given each year to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration instead to employment-based applicants.
What the speech didn’t include:
  • A plan for the United States’ nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants whose deportation was a campaign talking point for candidate Trump in 2016.
  • A solution for “Dreamers,” the approximately 3.8 million immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. Democrats have said they’ll need a solution for Dreamers before they can support broader immigration changes.
  • A path forward for the 300,00 foreign nationals who live in the United States legally under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.