By David Nakamura and Ashley Parker | Washington Post
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned again about the dangers of undocumented immigrants, signaling no plans to temper his rhetoric even as he prepares to unveil a broad proposal aimed at balancing public perception of his administration’s hard line agenda.
Trump is scheduled to use a Rose Garden speech on Thursday to throw his support behind a plan developed by his son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, to move U.S. immigration toward a “merit-based system” that prioritizes high-skilled workers. Several Republican senators are expected to attend, officials said.
The proposal, previewed by Kushner and other Trump aides in private briefings on Capitol Hill over the past two weeks, already is facing skepticism from lawmakers in both political parties, and there appears to be no clear path toward advancing the plan through Congress.
But White House aides emphasized that Trump is enthusiastically on board with an effort to demonstrate that he endorses legal immigration to help American companies even as he has railed against other groups, including immigrant families seeking asylum and refugees.
“This is his proposal,” said a senior administration official. “He’s been intimately involved in crafting it. We’ve shown him kind of where some of the criticism might come from on the right, and his response is, ‘I’m happy to talk to them and I’ll convince them of why this is the right thing.’”
The rollout presents another test of Trump’s willingness to stump for a plan that could face opposition from border hawks and his ability to forge bipartisan support at a time when he has inflamed Democrats over unilateral immigration actions, including declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall.
In past immigration debates, including the Senate’s deliberation over four immigration bills in early 2018, Trump floated support for more liberal immigration positions only to quickly revert to his hard line stance in the wake of criticism from conservatives.
That has led to skepticism over just how far Trump will go to build support for a plan that White House aides said does not curtail the overall number of immigration green cards, a major goal of many border hawks.
In a memorial service for slain law enforcement officers Wednesday, Trump showed no signs that he would shift his tone about immigrants to build more moderate support. The president highlighted the case of Cpl. Ronil Singh of Newman, California, who was killed by an unauthorized immigrant during a traffic stop in December.
Trump called the perpetrator a “vicious killer” who could have been kept out of the country by a border wall or “whatever the hell it takes.”
“People are trying to come into our country because our country’s doing well,” Trump said. “They can’t come in like this killer came in.”
Congress has not passed a major immigration bill in three decades, and efforts at comprehensive reform failed under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom emphasized the need to balance efforts to beef up enforcement with the need to expand legal pathways into the United States.
Trump’s administration has sharply curtailed the number of refugees in the country and has attempted repeatedly to strip asylum rights for a record number of Central American families that have crossed the U.S. border with Mexico.
Though Trump has voiced support for a pathway to citizenship for many of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, he has sought to pair legalization efforts with hard line enforcement provisions, including a border wall, more Border Patrol officers and change to U.S. laws aimed at speeding up deportations.
The plan developed by Kushner aims to distribute a significantly larger proportion of green cards to immigrants based on such factors as their professional skills, education levels, age and English ability, rather than on family ties, White House aides said.
The proposal, for which Kushner met with dozens of conservative and immigrant rights groups, as well as business leaders, also would seek to address the mounting border crisis, where the surge of families have overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system. Aides said the plan would call for modernizing legal ports of entry to help prevent illicit drugs and human trafficking, while also proposing to changes to U.S. asylum laws – something Democrats have called a non-starter.
Trump met with a dozen GOP senators at the White House last week and several of them emerged to characterize the plan as a “political document” that Republicans can rally around as Democrats seek to demonize the president on immigration ahead of the 2020 election.
The White House proposal is “not designed to become law,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump ally, said at a news conference Wednesday during which he unveiled his own bill to deal with the border crisis.
Inside the White House, there is little expectation from most of Trump’s aides that the plan will move forward, said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. The official described an ideological split between Kushner, whose immigration views are more moderate, and another senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller, who is a hard-liner and is privately opposed to much of the plan.
White House officials have publicly disputed such suggestions, and Miller has joined Kushner for some briefings to lawmakers in an effort to present a united front. Kushner has told other White House officials that Trump’s speech can set a different tone for the president on immigration, with the president laying out what he supports rather than reiterating the kind of immigration he opposes.
“This is not a legislative vehicle,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration levels. “Obviously, it isn’t going anywhere. It’s more of a campaign statement and an outline of what they like and what they don’t.”
Trump plans to travel to New York on Thursday afternoon for a campaign fundraising event. But White House officials declined an invitation for the president to take part in the grand opening on the same day of a museum at the Statue of Liberty – an event expected to attract many dignitaries to commemorate the nearly 133-year-old landmark that has long been an icon of inclusion for immigrants.
The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner contributed to this report.
Source: Mercury news
Trump readies new ‘merit-based’ immigration plan