What ‘Merit-Based’ Immigration Means, Why Trump Is Pushing for it

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President Trump called for a "major update" to the US immigration system on Thursday, announcing a plan to boost "merit-based" immigration.

Here's a look at what that means, and why it keeps coming up.

'Merit-based' immigration means using individuals' skills to decide whether they should be allowed to immigrate.

Senior adviser Jared Kushner is behind this latest initiative, which emerged after months of talks between Kushner and dozens of conservative groups. One key idea behind it, Trump said in a speech from the White House Rose Garden, would be to attract "the best and brightest all around the world" to come to the United States.

The plan, which faces an uphill battle for consensus even among the Republican Party's own ranks, calls for replacing longstanding family-based immigration rules with a system favoring highly-skilled, financially self-sufficient immigrants who learn English and pass a civics exam.

Trump says the plan will use a point system.

The President says his plan would use "an easy-to-navigate, point-based selection system" to determine eligibility.

"You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education or a plan to create jobs," Trump said.

His plan wouldn't change the total number of green cards offered annually, Trump said, but would increase the proportion allocated to skilled workers.

"We want immigrants coming in. We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country," he said. "But a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill."

Countries like Australia and Canada have skills-based systems.

Australia and Canada both use point-based systems to determine if someone qualifies to enter the country as a skilled worker.

In Canada, for example, applicants earn points based on language skills, education, work experience age, adaptability and whether they have a job waiting for them.

This isn't the first time Trump has said he wants it.

He touted it in his 2017 speech to a joint session of Congress, and again in his 2018 State of the Union speech. He also got behind a 2017 bill that would have created a point system emphasizing immigrants' skills.

"It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system -- one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country," Trump said last year.

Immigrant rights advocates are already sounding alarm bells.

"President Trump's proposed immigration plan is an outrageous attempt to shut doors to everyone but the most wealthy and privileged individuals, circumventing human rights and legal obligations toward asylum-seekers," Amnesty International said in a statement after Trump's speech.

The Southern Poverty Law Center called the plan "profoundly anti-American" and said the English-language requirement "is deeply at odds with our nation's values and diversity."

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