Trump unveils new US immigration policy

US President Donald Trump has unveiled a new immigration policy that aims to increase the proportion of skilled migration to the United States. But the plans have set a potential collision course with Congress.

In a speech at the White House on Thursday, US President Donald Trump laid out a merit-based immigration plan that would give preferential treatment to high-skilled workers.

He said the current laws "discriminate against genius" and "discriminate against brilliance" because most of the legal immigrants are low-skilled people who would make low wages. 

"Our plan includes a sweeping modernization of our dysfunctional legal immigration process. It is totally dysfunctional," said Trump, noting his administration wants to increase security at the border and reduce claims from asylum-seekers. 

The reform, Trump said, would make the US immigration system the "envy" of the world.

More merit-based green cards

Under the plan, the number of green cards given to approved immigrants would remain the same. But far more would go to exceptional students, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees.

Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would also be considered. Far fewer green cards would be given to people with relatives already in the US; 57% would be awarded on merit, as opposed to the current 12%.

Trump's plan, which has been roundly panned by Democrats and immigration advocacy groups, is aimed at trying to unite Republicans — some of whom want to boost immigration, others who want to restrict it — ahead of the November 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

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DW News | 11.01.2019

Trump visits US-Mexico border

'Political stunt'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, criticized the White House for failing to consult with Democratic lawmakers and said this showed the proposal was not serious. 

The plan also does not address what to do about the millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally, including hundreds of thousands of young "Dreamers" brought to the US as children — a top priority for Democrats. They are currently protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which Trump has tried to end. 

The plan also does not reduce overall rates of immigration, a wish of many conservative Republicans. 

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"A plan that forces families apart, limits access to asylum and other humanitarian relief, and doesn't contemplate a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented community members is clearly a political stunt intended to posture rather than problem-solve," said Lisa Koop, director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, speaking with The Associated Press.

The plan was developed by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller, an adviser known for his hard line on immigration issues. 

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

A bitter arrival

The planes arrive at a special gate at Mexico City airport. These undocumented migrants are deported from the detention centers in the US in handcuffs and put on planes. Twenty minutes before landing they are released.

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

Illegal alien

George Niño de la Riviera found out he was living illegally in the US when he turned 18 and applied for a job. He was told he did not have a social security number. He was taken to the US by his parents when he was a baby and grew up there. Five months ago he was deported, having spent the last 34 years in America. His four children are living with his ex-wife in Fresno.

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

A foreign country

Maria Herrera, 27, was deported on April 10. She was waiting for the renewal of her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) visa when she got involved in a car crash. She was arrested and taken to jail where she was detained for two months, before being deported. She was three years old when she left Mexico — a country that is totally foreign to her.

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

Starting from scratch

She met George at New Comienzos, a non-profit organization that assists repatriated people, and they started dating. "It's great to have a special friend who went through all of this too," she told DW. Neither of them knew anything about Mexico. While in detention Maria suffered depression and anxiety attacks. Now they're trying to find their way around Mexico City.

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

Detained and deported

As a result of a fight he had in 2003 with an ex-girlfriend, Diego Miguel Maria, 37, was arrested and then deported in 2016.

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

"Dump Trump and his wall"

Along with five other recently deported Mexicans, he was able to qualify for funding from the Mexican government to start a textile printing press. They call their brand Deportados and print statements on bags and T-shirts like: "Dump Trump and his wall."

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

A helping hand

Diego's job won't make him rich, but it allows him time to volunteer and help new deportees at the airport. "I felt so lost when I got through that door. I think it is important to guide those who are in the same shoes," he told DW. The most difficult part was leaving his son behind, who lived with him before he was deported. His ex-wife doesn't allow him to maintain contact with his son.

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

Starting over

Daniel Sandovan was deported in February, but appears relaxed about it. "In America I could never really invest in a future, because I had no documents. What use is an education if nobody is going to hire? Here in Mexico I have the possibility to start over. I will be able to have a wife and children without fear of losing them," he told DW.

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

Settling in

Daniel lives in a home for refugees above the Deportados Brand print shop. A pastor in his church organized his initial stay with a 75-year-old woman who picked him up from the bus station in Mexico City. "I stayed [with her] for two weeks, painted the house, and then I contacted Deportados Brand, after I heard that they help migrants in the detention center. Now I live here with two others."

Mexican deportees return to home city they never knew

Looking on the bright side

Although most of them do not know where they'll be sent and worry that they could lose everything in a split second, the upheaval doesn't always end badly. "It feels like my life in the States was overshadowed by fear and sadness because of my legal status. Now there's less of a burden, as I am finally free and I feel at home," Maria told DW.

av/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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