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The Immigration Corner: President Trump’s New Immigration Proposal

On May 16, 2019, President Trump unveiled a new immigration proposal to completely overhaul the current U.S. immigration system. The U.S. immigration system has been a hot button topic for some time now and many different proposals have been put forth to change the system. The publicity that comes with President Trump has put a spotlight on this specific proposal, giving it some media traction, but what exactly is in President Trump’s immigration proposal? And what effect could it have on immigrants, both coming to this country and those already here?

President Trump’s immigration proposal has four main components and seeks to make the following changes:

  1. Change the composition of the people coming to the U.S. while keeping the number of the people coming to the U.S. the same;
  2. Focus on merit and skills as opposed to family ties or humanitarian need;
  3. Change the rules for family immigration; and
  4. Simplify the visa process.

The big takeaway from President Trump’s proposal is the switch in focus of the U.S. immigration system from family ties or humanitarian needs to merits and skills and the changing of the rules for family-based immigration. Currently, immigration based on family ties or humanitarian needs have been the predominant composition of immigration in the U.S., with 66% of the immigrants utilizing family ties as their basis for immigration and 22% coming because of humanitarian needs. Only about 12% of the people coming to the U.S. are for skill-based reasons. Under President Trump’s proposal, he essentially wants to flip these numbers. According to the proposed plan, 57% of those coming to the U.S. would be for skill-based reasons, while those coming to the U.S. based on family ties and humanitarian needs would be reduced to 33% and 10%, respectively.

To implement the switch to a merit-based immigration system, President Trump’s proposal calls for the elimination of the current family and employment-based preference categories, replacing them with a points system. While the proposal does not contain specific details regarding the points system, we know that this points system would look at an immigrant’s qualifications, such as the level of education, English language proficiency and professional skills, with more points awarded for higher levels of education and the number of professional skills that an immigrant possesses. To help reduce the number of family-based immigrants, President Trump’s proposal would eliminate many of the family-based classifications that relatives utilize to come to the U.S. These classifications would include the sibling classification and the parents classification, leaving only classifications for spouses and children.

It is important to emphasize that currently, any such broad changes to the U.S. immigration system will require new laws to be passed by Congress and there is no indication that Congress is willing to follow President Trump’s proposal and change the laws accordingly. However, it does not mean that it is not possible for all or parts of the proposal to be adopted and if the laws are changed, current favorable laws could be eliminated. One thing that has not been discussed is what is happening to those who have already filed petitions and are currently waiting for green cards. We do not know if individuals waiting for green cards will be grandfathered in, should the laws change, or if they will have the new laws apply to their cases immediately. In any case, it is best to consult with an immigration attorney to determine if any action should be taken now. Contact us today to speak with an immigration attorney.

Attorney Paul Messina focuses his practice on all aspects of employment-based, investor-based and family-based immigration law. He has extensive experience in proceedings before United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Consular Section of the United States Department of State. He has handled a variety of immigration cases, including employment-based green cards, EB-5 investment-based green cards (direct and through regional centers), and many of the non-immigrant visa/status categories as well as family-based green cards.

Author’s note: The Immigration Corner presents current and relevant topics in immigration law. The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. Regulations and laws may vary depending on your location. Consult with a licensed attorney in your area if you wish to obtain legal advice and/or counsel for a particular legal issue.