Donald Trump wants to give priority to immigration over "merit".

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Donald Trump presented on Thursday a comprehensive reform of the legal immigration system in the United States, designed to select foreigners on the basis of their "merit" and no longer on the basis of their family ties, which is likely to be difficult to adopt in Congress.

"Our plan will turn the American immigration system into pride for the nation and will be admired around the world," the American president said, denouncing a "dysfunctional" system that "discriminates against geniuses" and "brilliant minds".




According to him, nearly two-thirds of the 1.1 million permanent resident permits, the famous "green cards" distributed each year by the United States, go to immigrants "simply because they have a relative" in the country, and only 12% go to foreigners selected for their "merit or skills".

Donald Trump promised to increase their proportion from 12% to 57%.
 "It will make us more competitive," he said.



The real estate tycoon has outlined a "point" immigration system similar to what Canada does.

According to him, immigrants will receive points if they have specific skills, a job offer, a high level of education or a business creation project. They will also have to be "financially independent", "learn to speak English" and "pass a civic exam" before being admitted to the United States, he added.

The Republican billionaire, who has made the fight against illegal immigration a marker of his presidency, also denounced "fanciful asylum applications" and assured that he would set up a faster mechanism for selecting applications.



"Condescending"  


The main lines of the reform, concocted by his son-in-law and councillor Jared Kushner, had been unveiled in the press on Thursday morning, and the Democrats did not wait for the President's speech to denounce it.
 
"For every new immigrant that the plan will let in, one will have to come out," commented Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer, a "cruel and inhuman" reform. "Shockingly," he continued, the reform provides nothing for "the 11 million undocumented migrants living in the United States" or dreamers who arrived illegally before they turned 16.


 
Sister Nancy Pelosi, head of the House of Representatives, denounced a "condescending" proposal, which implies that "families have no merit".

On the Republican side, some elected officials, who were campaigning for a reduction in the number of Green Cards issued each year, may also be disappointed.


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In this context, the White House plan is likely to remain a dead letter.

"Given the current immigration controversies, it is unlikely that Congress will adopt reform this year, especially with the 2020 presidential election in sight," said Immigration Law Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr.
 
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But the stakes may be elsewhere.  


Donald Trump's migration policy has been regularly denounced by business circles, including Silicon Valley, which employs thousands of foreign engineers, or farmers dependent on cheap seasonal labour.

In 2017, the bosses of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Airbnb or Netflix, had deemed measures banning the entry into the United States of nationals from seven countries with a Muslim majority to be "contrary to American values".

As if to reassure them, Donald Trump claimed these values on Thursday. "Throughout our history, we have welcomed newcomers to our shores", "they have forged a people" and "we are proud of them", he said.


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"Criminals"  


However, there is no question of abandoning repressive measures at the border, at the heart of the presidential message.

The draft reforms also aim, according to the president, to "fully secure the southern border" of the United States, which he considers porous to "drug trafficking" and "criminals".


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To block them, he reaffirmed his desire to build a wall between Mexico and the United States.

The Democrats' refusal to finance this construction prompted him to declare an "emergency" at the border, which allowed him to draw on military budgets. "We should have nearly 400 miles (650 kilometres) built by the end of next year," he said.




According to official figures, more than 100,000 migrants were arrested after illegally crossing the border from Mexico in March and April.

These large flows have already been recorded in the past, but today there are many more families and unaccompanied minors fleeing violence and poverty in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

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