Uncle Sam's policy of offering citizenship to foreign nationals could soon see a major change. That, if the US administration approves a proposal put forth by US President Donald Trump.
President Trump addressed the White House gathering on Thursday and proposed a set of reforms to immigration laws. He also shared the fall-outs of the current system and how the new system could create a "fair, modern and lawful system of immigration for the US."
In his proposal, the President sought replacing the Green Card policy with a 'Build America' visa. According to him, the new system would be based on a "merit and points" system and was aimed to increase quota for highly-skilled workers from 12 to 57 percent. Under the current Green Card system, visas were majorly focused on family ties, diversity visas, and a small segment towards highly skilled professionals.
Trump, on Thursday said, "Our proposal fulfils our sacred duty to those living here today, while ensuring America remains a welcoming country to immigrants joining us tomorrow. We want immigrants coming in."
"We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country, but a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill," he said.
"Instead of admitting people through random chance, we will establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States. No matter where in the world you're born, no matter who your relatives are, if you want to become an American citizen, it will be clear exactly what standard we ask you to achieve. It will be made crystal clear," he said.
"This will increase the diversity of immigration flows into our country. We will replace the existing green card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa - which is what we all want to hear," Trump said amidst applause.
In the current system, the US administration offers green cards to a selected set of individuals. A green card offers foreign nationals life-time permission to work in the US. It is reported that the US administration annually issues 1.1 million green cards. Media reports suggest that five years is the average wait-time for green card holders to subsequently become US citizens. However, there have been various reports that suggest that the average wait time to get a green card is decades and not years.
A MERIT & POINT BASED SYSTEM:
Trump said like Canada and many other modern countries, his administration seeks to create an "easy-to-navigate points-based" selection system. "Only 12 per cent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or based on merit. In countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that number is closer to 60 and even 70 and 75 per cent, in some cases," he said.
"You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs," he said.
In the absence of such a system, America is losing people who want to start companies, and in many cases, are forced to leave the country and go back to the country where they came from, he said.
"They could've started them (companies) right here in the United States, where they wanted to do it in the first place. Now they'll have a chance," Trump said.
The President also said that priority would be given to higher-wage workers to ensure the American labour is never undercut. To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient, he added.
"Finally, to promote integration, assimilation, and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission. Through these steps, we will deliver an immigration system that respects, and even strengthens, our culture, our traditions, and our values," Trump said.
According to the president, Americans with criminal records are getting a second chance at life in higher numbers than ever before. Unfortunately, the current immigration rules allow foreign workers to substitute for Americans seeking entry-level jobs. "So, foreign workers are coming in and they're taking the jobs that would normally go to American workers," Trump said.
"America's immigration system should bring in people who will expand opportunity for striving, low-income Americans, not to compete with those low-income Americans," he said.
As a result of the broken rules, the annual green card flow is mostly low-wage and low-skilled, he rued, adding that the newcomers compete for jobs against the most vulnerable Americans and put pressure on social safety net and generous welfare programmes.
To summarize, the new immigration system will:
• Prefer highly-skilled workers and highly salaried.
• Halve the number of visas offered via family system and relatives.
• Quadruple employment-based immigration.
• Put an end to diversity based green card lottery system
• Improve Legal Immigrant Salary
Here is a video of the US President speaking on the immigration policy:
Will Trump's proposal go live?
The US administration in the past month has reportedly been in the news over three major themes. The first was the imposition of trade-tariffs on Chinese imports. The second was the Pentagon awarding contracts to build a grand wall on the Mexican border. The third was US' employment numbers suggesting a debatable drop in unemployment numbers. Unemployment rate fell to its lowest since 1969, thereby suggesting a growth.
There is a likelihood that this latest proposal could be a PR stunt. In fact, The Hindu quoted Doug Rand, Co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a policy-analyst who had helped White House in the Obama administration as saying that this could be a "PR move." Rand believed that there was no chance of Trump's proposal becoming a law.
Trump's fresh proposal may face a difficult challenge in being implemented. This, owing to a divided Congress on partisan lines, especially on the issue of immigration reforms.
Will it affect Indians?
It is likely that the proposal may work in favour of highly-skilled individuals. Trump speaking about the "lottery" system said that 66 percent of legal immigrants came on the basis of random chance. "They’re admitted solely because they have a relative in the United States. And it doesn’t really matter who that relative is. Another 21 percent of immigrants are issued either by random lottery, or because they are fortunate enough to be selected for humanitarian relief."
Add to that the US lottery system itself offers a fixed set of quotas per country. Often, many agencies and think-tanks have rued that such a quota system blocks out talent. Moreover, a proposal that talks of skills, proficiency and aptitude could create opportunities for millions of aspirants.
"Random selection is contrary to American values and blocks out many qualified potential immigrants from around the world who have much to contribute," said the US president.
Hence, a proposal that talks about eliminating a lottery system could be quite a welcome move, however, what processes the US administration uses in its new system could be key to determine the efficiency of its new immigration policy.