Trump Outlines 'Merit-Based' Immigration Plan, Far From Becoming Law President Trump's proposal would keep legal immigration levels the same but dramatically change who would be let in. It does not address the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally.
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Trump Outlines 'Merit-Based' Immigration Plan, Still Far From Becoming Law

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Trump Outlines 'Merit-Based' Immigration Plan, Still Far From Becoming Law

Trump Outlines 'Merit-Based' Immigration Plan, Still Far From Becoming Law

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NOEL KING, HOST:

This afternoon, President Trump will unveil a new proposal that calls for dramatic changes to the legal immigration system in the U.S. The policy would change who is allowed into the country. It would favor highly skilled immigrants, and it would cut spots for asylum-seekers and for people with family in the U.S. Now, this policy does not deal with the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally. A White House official has told NPR that, quote, "we want to show the country that Republicans are not against immigrants," unquote. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith is on the line.

Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: All right, so we have some idea what's in this plan. What are the specifics? What more do we know?

KEITH: So a senior administration official says that this is a good faith effort intended to unify Republicans and start a discussion. It is very much focused on legal immigration and completely reshaping the system for people to come to this country. So it would move away from a family-based immigration system towards a system that would prioritize merit - so people with college degrees, people with skills, things like that. It also would greatly reduce the number of people seeking asylum who would be allowed in in any given year.

But it would keep immigration levels static, so it neither increases nor decreases the number of people allowed into the country each year. But, as you say in the intro, it does not deal with the 11 million people...

KING: Yeah.

KEITH: ...Who are in the country illegally now, including DREAMers. Those are the young people who were brought here as children and are in the country illegally now.

KING: Do we know anything, Tam, about how this went down - how discussions about this policy went down within the White House? Like, who had the most influence on drafting this policy?

KEITH: So this has been a months-long process that has been led by Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser. Stephen Miller, the immigration hardliner who is an adviser in the White House, has also been involved, as has Kevin Hassett from the Council of Economic Advisers. And Kushner - I've spoken to numerous people - outside people, including conservatives who deal with immigration, who Kushner has consulted with along the way. He has been having a whole bunch of conversations. But a senior administration official says that in the end, this is President Trump's plan, that President Trump is enthusiastic about it and that this is being guided by what President Trump wants.

KING: You said this is being presented as a good faith effort to unite Republicans. What does that mean for Congress on the whole? Does this have any chance of actually going into effect?

KEITH: It doesn't seem to have a very good chance of going into effect because anything that would pass Congress has to have bipartisan support. And Democrats are not going to get on board with a plan that doesn't deal with DREAMers at all, much less the other 11 million people who are here illegally. And for many Republicans, there are problems too.

I was talking to someone who is sort of a - more of an immigration hardliner or restrictionist from an outside group, Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies. And he said, this is the starting point. He was sort of shocked by this. And he's like - he really feels that any plan from this White House needs to have restrictions on immigration to cut the number of people coming to the country. And he's concerned that this is a starting point. He says "The Art Of The Deal" says you start with an aggressive position. Why would they start without having any cuts at all to legal immigration?

KING: Just quickly, do you think the president will stay on message when he announces this this afternoon?

KEITH: Well, if past is prologue, often, he gets off message or does not stick to the script. But sometimes, in the Rose Garden, he sticks to those teleprompters. So, you know, you never know. But he certainly has a lot of ideas about immigration.

KING: NPR's Tamara Keith.

Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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