Trump pitches the Kushner-Miller plan: Same immigration levels as before, but more emphasis on skills

It’s going over precisely as well as every other immigration proposal produced by Washington.

The best quickie rundown of the plan’s main planks is at PBS. The key bit has to do with reducing chain migration. Note: Reducing, not ending. This is a Kushner plan, remember, designed as a starting point on bipartisan compromise.

Keeps immigration numbers the same: The proposal keeps the numbers of immigrants coming to the United States the same while changing the composition of people entering the U.S. A senior administration official Wednesday said this approach is seen as a way to compromise between immigration hardliners who want reductions in the overall number of immigrants and immigration advocates who want the United States to take in more people.

Focus on merit and skills, rather than family ties or humanitarian needs: Currently about 12 percent of people come to the United States for skill-based reasons. The president wants to dramatically increase that number to 57 percent. Another 66 percent of immigrants come to the country with ties to family members, and 22 percent come because of humanitarian needs or through seeking asylum. The White House plan would decrease the number of people who enter the country because of family ties to 33 percent, and 10 percent of people would be allowed in for humanitarian needs.

Contra Coulter, the plan actually does call for building physical barriers at 33 different spots along the border, although not a sea-to-shining-sea wall. Will Democrats go for that? you ask. Why, no. There’s no amnesty for DREAMers in the bill to sweeten the pot for them either. On the other hand, border hawks aren’t going to go for the part about keeping immigration levels at their current numbers, as Mark Krikorian noted two days ago. (“Formally embracing the current legal-immigration level of more than one million each year would mean that the GOP, as on so many issues before, would simply be the Democrat-lite party, wanting to go in the same direction, just more slowly.”) As for E-Verify, nope, also not in the bill. Even Republican senators, normally willing to do Trump’s bidding on policy, sounded chilly about the plan when it was presented to them.

I’m at a loss as to what Trump and Kushner were hoping to achieve by introducing it, knowing up front that it can’t possibly pass. The idea, I guess, was to soften Trump’s image ahead of 2020 (“We want to show the country that Republicans are not against immigrants,” said one administration official to NPR), but there are all sorts of problems with that. For starters, this is the same guy who endorsed Tom Cotton’s RAISE Act, which *did* pointedly call for reducing legal immigration. Does he still back that goal or is he now backing Kushner’s? Even if he’s with Jared now, how much of this message will anyone remember when he inevitably spends 98 percent of his time on the campaign trail warning about illegals bringing drugs and crime to the U.S.? Is Kushner’s plan merely being offered to give Republican members of Congress something to cite on the trail?

Beyond the electoral politics, it’s addressing a relatively low-priority immigration problem. Ask Americans to name a major immigration crisis and you’ll get a variety of answers. Uncertainty about the status of illegals who are here, starting with DREAMers; exploitation of U.S. asylum laws by illegals hoping to gain entry under false pretenses as victims of political persecution; the system’s inability to process the volume of detainees in an expeditious fashion, leading to catch and release. “Skills versus chain migration” is important but not part of the emergency at the border that DHS is coping with right now. I can’t understand why reforming asylum laws wasn’t the focus of this speech instead. Trump did name-check Lindsey Graham, who rolled out his own asylum plan yesterday…

The legislation would change the system in three substantial ways: It would require migrants seeking asylum to apply at a consulate or embassy in their home country or in Mexico, instead of at the southern border; it would increase the amount of time that migrant children could stay in custody from 20 days to 100 days; and make it easier for officials to deport unaccompanied minors to Central America.

The measure also calls for 500 new immigration judges to chip away at the massive immigration court backlog.

…but it was an afterthought in Trump’s own proposal. Why? If the point here was to pressure Democrats to come to the table, the White House could have at least emphasized the element of America’s broken immigration system that’s in most urgent need of repair.

There’s not even a bill, by the way. Trump and Kushner aren’t submitting anything to Congress. They’re just floating this in a speech and hoping for something to happen:

There’s literally zero chance that congressional Republicans or Democrats will risk pissing off their respective bases with a “bad” immigration compromise ahead of a presidential election, especially with Dems convinced that Trump is beatable next fall. Pelosi has every reason to wait and hope she’ll soon be dealing with President Biden and a Democratic (or at least less Republican) Senate. The fact that there’s no White House bill probably reflects that reality: There’s no point writing a bill because the bill won’t pass. But then, what was the point of writing this plan? Especially knowing that Trump will soon discard it on the campaign trail in favor of more meat-and-potatoes rhetoric about the many social ills caused by immigrants.