Written by: Ashik R. Jahan, Esq.

President Trump’s recent announcement that he is seeking to support legislation to curb the level of legal immigration to the U.S. by proposing a skills-based system is significant. What is most concerning is that his proposal would drastically change the way immigration law has operated in the U.S. for generations. U.S. policy has long been one of family unity and diversity. Despite the long waits that may apply currently to bring over certain family members such as siblings or married children of U.S. citizens, immediate relatives (parents, children, spouses) of U.S. citizens have been a priority for family-based immigration. The White House appears to now be taking the position that unskilled individuals, regardless of family connections or ties to U.S. citizens, would not be able to immigrate to the U.S. under a merit-based system.

A merit based system would grade possible immigrants based on their ability to work in the U.S. A similar system is in place for Canada, which President Trump previously lauded. In fact, according to USA Today, about 63% of those granted legal permanent residence in Canada — the final step before becoming citizens — are admitted for their economic skills, with only 24% admitted based on having family members living in the country. The U.S. system is reversed: 63% of green cards are given to immigrants with family connections, and only 13% given based on economic reasons. It remains to be seen whether Trump will also seek to adopt the Canadian philosophy on healthcare as well.

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