Trump announces major change in US immigration policy: Here’s how it could impact you

On Thursday, May 16, United States President Donald Trump announced a major overhaul to the country’s immigration policy. Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said that the new immigration policy will be a point-based system pivoting towards skills-based, employment immigration and away from family-based immigration.

NPR reports that regardless of this change, the total number of 1.1 million green cards issued by the US will not change and there will be no decrease in net immigration.

An official in Trump’s administration explaining the policy change told NPR, “We want to show the country that Republicans are not against immigrants.”

Moreover, a senior official told CNBC that the White House wants to change the current “composition” of immigrants, not stop them from coming in altogether.

Politico says that skill-based visas amount to only 140,000 every year or about 12% of total immigration to the US.

What the policy entails

Trump’s immigration policy is a two-part plan: first focusing on the physical, concrete border wall and second, the points-based visa allotment system.

One of Trump’s most famous campaign promises is a 346 kilometer long concrete wall that he said he will get constructed if elected. This wall costs $5.7 billion and has proven to be highly contentious, but he has included it as a provision in his immigration policy.

In February, the US government shut down temporarily after Democrats refused to allow funding for the wall in the budget. Still, Trump has persisted in his demand for the concrete wall to become a reality, claiming that it will keep “illegal” immigrants from Mexico out.

Most importantly, the US immigration system will now become point-based, meaning candidates will be awarded points based on language proficiency and educational qualifications— not on the basis of family members who have already successfully immigrated.

The diversity visa program, one that allotted 50,000 visas to countries with very low immigration rates in the US like Thailand, will be eliminated.

Notably, the plan does not address people who entered the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that allows the children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country if they were brought before their 16th birthday, are under the age of 31, and have continuously resided in the US since 2007.

DACA also allows its recipients called “Dreamers” to renew their status every two years and get a work permit.

The Trump administration believes that this new policy will increase the GDP by 0.17 percentage points over 10 years, add $500 billion in taxes, and cut $100 billion in social welfare spending.

Possible motivation behind Trump’s announcement

Trump has taken an especially hardline towards immigrants, particularly hispanic immigrants from Mexico. His railing against immigration has been one of the pillars of his campaigns and a continued promise he keeps making to the American public.

He has also lambasted Mexican immigrants as them drug dealers, criminals, and rapists. He says that they illegally immigrate en masse or are “flowing through” the border to steal American jobs. He has even taken an issue with political refugees and people fleeing war-torn nations for asylum.

“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists… And some, I assume are good people”, he said at a rally.

Hence, the more moderate stance towards immigration could be an attempt at salvaging the Republican reputation in the country ahead of the 2020 elections.

CNBC explains that the White House is also trying to give Republicans a “positive proposal” to discuss during the 2020 campaign, rather than focus on the negative aspects of Trump’s immigration rhetoric.

Reports also suggest that if Democrats do not allow this immigration policy to pass, Trump will make political non-engagement an election issue next year.

“It is going to be a very detailed piece of legislation and it can be what they want it to be. If they do not want to engage, then it will be part of the election. If they want to engage, then it could be part of a negotiation. That is going to be up to them”, said an official anonymously, according to Mint.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s strongest allies, said that a point-based system might be more favourable to all parties with a stake in immigration policy.

“The border security plan seemed solid. We all know you’re not going to pass this without dealing with the other aspects of immigration. But the point of getting the party behind a merit-based immigration proposal and border security is a significant step. But that’s sort of starting a larger conversation”, said Graham, according to Politico.

Graham also said that he is seeking bipartisan support for a bill that makes it easier for the US government to detain and deport Central American children.

Impact of this new policy

Some sources say that this policy change could benefits Indian workers who immigrated for employment and are awaiting H1B visas or green cards.

Mint reports that 66% of all greencards are given to people with family ties in the US, so the point-based system might work in Indians’ favour.

However, passing the policy will be difficult.

Politico says that the policy was largely drafted by his son-in-law Jared Kushner who has apparently not spent much time earning support for this policy across party lines.

Hence, getting this legislation passed in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority, will be a challenge. Moreover, Democrats will likely take issue with the policy’s stance on Dreamers.

While the policy might not get implemented, it may change the rhetoric around immigration from Trump’s barrage against Mexicans and other non-western immigrants to real, concrete policy points that can be debated.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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