The White House’s new immigration framework, released on January 25, proposed significant changes to two legal immigration programs in addition to addressing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Trump administration has proposed a pathway to citizenship for both current DACA recipients and immigrants that qualify for the protections but are not currently enrolled. That would provide roughly 1.8 million people an avenue to legal status. In exchange, the White House will seek to change the following two methods of legal immigration to the United States:
- Changes to Family Reunification Rules
The framework proposes changes to family reunification rules. Family reunification, which the White House and conservatives pejoratively refer to as “chain migration”, is where an U.S. citizen or lawful permanent residents (individual with Green Cards) sponsors close family members to join them in the United States. The close family members are limited to an immediate relative, which includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizens where the child is 21 years or older; a family member fitting into a preference category, which includes unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, brothers and sisters of citizens over the age of 21; and a family member of a green card holder, which includes spouses and unmarried children of the sponsoring green card holder. Family reunification in the United States is the most common legal basis for immigration, where historically more than half of the immigration application the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives are for family members. The White House’s proposal would limit sponsorship to immediate family members of spouse and children only.
- Elimination of the Diversity Visa
The framework also proposes a complete end to the diversity visa lottery, which allows up to 50,000 individuals a year from countries with low immigration to the United States to obtain a Green Card, provided the applicant meets education or work requirements. The number of applicants significantly outnumbers the number of visa availability. In 2017, around 20 million people applied for the 50,000 visas, thus creating a H-1B visa-like system where a lottery takes place to determine the “winners”. There are limitations on the Diversity Lottery. One requirement is that individuals have to have a high school degree or its equivalent or have two years of work experience within the past five years in a job that requires two years of training or experience. The applicant cannot be inadmissible to the United States and cannot be born in a country that is ineligible to enter.
If both of these legal immigration proposals pass, the White House will cut nearly 44% of all legal immigration compared to the current system, thus preventing nearly 22 million people from coming to the United States over the next 50 years, or around half a million a year.
- Building a Wall
Also in exchange for the pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Trump wants $25 billion to build a wall on the border with Mexico to keep any more immigrants from crossing the border illegally. Setting aside the gratuitous insult to Mexico that the wall would be, its existence would divide families and communities along the border, bisect and isolate iconic Southwestern landscapes, and threaten endangered wildlife and decades of binational cooperation to save these species from extinction.
Under the new proposal, the citizenship path for DACA recipients could take 12 years to complete, while their parents would not be allowed to remain in the country. Currently, this is just a proposal, it is not law and is very unlikely that it will pass. The Democrats and Republicans will work towards an immigration deal before the DACA program expires in March.
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