ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona lawmakers react along party lines to Trump’s immigration overhaul

May 16, 2019, 2:40 PM
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about immigration reform in the Rose Ga...
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about immigration reform in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump’s new immigration proposal will be a “merit-based system” that prioritizes high-skilled workers over those with family already in the country and does not address young undocumented immigrants that are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (Getty Images Photo/Mark Wilson)
(Getty Images Photo/Mark Wilson)

PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers reacted along party lines to President Donald Trump’s announcement Thursday of his plan to overhaul the country’s immigration system.

The effort focuses on beefing up border security and rethinking the nation’s green card system so that it would favor people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers instead of relatives of those already in the country.

“My first thought is that he … continues to make a priority of the border security issue and is trying to give not only infrastructure along the border with fencing and roads but also the ports of entry, and I think that’s critical,” Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

“He also talked about merit-based immigration which is something that I think most Americans understand and prefer.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally was part of a group of a dozen senators who were briefed on the plan last week.

She said the overhaul moves the U.S. immigration system toward those implemented in countries like Australia, Canada and others the country competes with for high-skilled workers.

“(The plan) is moving us more toward a system that will allow us to meet our economic needs, and allow us to compete around the world and have our economy continue to grow,” she told KTAR News’ Mac & Gaydos on Wednesday.

“The visa lottery and other things like per-country caps that we have right now that really hold back communities like the Indian-American community … so things like this, we do need to modernize.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick called the plan a “political stunt.”

“It really doesn’t address the problem. We need a plan that’s comprehensive, and what he put out just lacks substance,” she told KTAR News on Thursday.

“It doesn’t address a pathway to citizenship or DACA recipients — that’s just one example. Dreamers weren’t included. It’s just a nonstarter.”

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, also a Democrat, simply said: “Trump’s immigration proposal is dead on arrival.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva also denounced the plan.

“This is exactly the type of plan we can expect: half-baked solutions that fail to promote a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and address the backlog of asylum seekers,” he said in a tweet.

“Our immigration system must reflect our values, not Trump’s xenophobia.”

The plan 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 U.S. as children, nor does it reduce overall rates of immigration.

The president’s proposed shift to a more merit-based system prioritizing high-skilled workers would mark a dramatic departure from the nation’s largely family-based approach, which officials said gives roughly 66% of green cards to those with family ties and 12% based on skills.

“We discriminate against genius,” Trump said of current policies, which he contended excessively favor family-based immigration. “We discriminate against brilliance. We won’t anymore once we get this passed.”

Under the new plan, the U.S. would award the same number of green cards as it now does. 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.

The diversity visa lottery, which offers green cards to citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S., would be eliminated.

As part of the plan, officials want to shore up ports of entry to ensure all vehicles and people are screened and to create a self-sustaining fund, paid for with increased fees, to modernize ports of entry.

The plan also calls for building border wall in targeted locations and continues a push for an overhaul to the U.S. asylum system, with the goal of processing fewer applications and removing people who don’t qualify faster.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Arizona lawmakers react along party lines to Trump’s immigration overhaul