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16 May, 2019 21:59

‘Envy of the world’ or 2020 campaign pitch? Trump immigration plan apparently aims at both

‘Envy of the world’ or 2020 campaign pitch? Trump immigration plan apparently aims at both

President Donald Trump has unveiled a sweeping proposal to overhaul legal immigration to make the US “envy of the world,” but basically admitted it amounts to a Republican campaign platform for 2020.

The proposal, reportedly authored principally by Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, envisions changes to asylum laws in order to prevent abuses of loopholes by migrants crossing the southern border illegally, as well as overhauling the issuance of “green cards” on a merit-based points system, including a requirement that immigrants learn English and pass a civics test.  

“This is the big, beautiful, bold plan,” Trump said at the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, adding adding that it would be nice to have something on a smaller scale implemented sooner.

That was a direct nod to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), sitting in the audience, who rolled out his own immigration proposal on Thursday – a stopgap solution for “caravans” of migrants from Central America seeking asylum in the US. Earlier this week, after meeting with Kushner about Trump’s proposal, Graham said the president’s plan was aiming for the 2020 election.

“I don’t think it’s designed to get Democratic support as much as it is to unify the Republican Party around border security,” the senator said.

Trump himself admitted as much on Thursday, saying that if he can’t get support from Democrats for the proposal, “we’ll get it approved immediately after the election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and of course, hold the presidency.”

His pitch for immigration reform was phrased in terms that Democrats would normally have trouble disagreeing with: as a way to protect immigrants already in the US, lower-wage American workers, and even to promote diversity by enabling foreigners with useful skills to come to the US, no matter where they are from.

Trump noted that the US used to take pride in “our ability to instill the Spirit of America into any human heart” – explicitly rejecting ethnic nationalism in favor of a civic one – and framed the overhaul in terms of bringing the US in line with countries like Canada, which takes in large numbers of immigrants under a merit-based points system.

Democrats, however, were not impressed. House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) argued that merit was a “condescending” word and really meant merit only “in the eyes of Donald Trump.”

The president’s proposal to demand immigrants learn English and pass a civics exam was quickly denounced as racist.

Equally unhappy were some of Trump’s supporters – both current and former – who pointed out the absence of a push to demand E-Verify enforcement (targeting those who hire illegal immigrants) and no reduction in actual immigration numbers.

“Obviously, it isn't going anywhere,” said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It's more of a campaign statement and an outline of what they like and what they don't.”

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who once wrote a book ‘In Trump We Trust’ but later broke with the president accusing him of breaking his promises on immigration, called the plan a “rube-bait campaign document.”

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