Donald Trump has proposed a merit-based immigration system that could benefit highly-skilled Indian workers but prevents them from sponsoring their extended families, as part-of an aggressive plan which the US president said will serve national interest.
However, there was no reference to the H-1B visas, the most sought after by Indian IT professionals, in the proposal which Trump sent to Congress yesterday. Besides overhauling the country's green-card system,
the Trump administration's wish list also includes the funding of a controversial border wall along the US-Mexico border and a crackdown on unaccompanied minors entering the country.
The move to establish a merit-based immigration system could benefit highly-skilled Indian immigrants especially those from the IT sector. However, the new policies would badly impact those thousands of Indian-Americans who want to bring in their family members to the US particularly their aged parents.
The demands were denounced by Democratic leaders in Congress who had hoped to forge a deal with Trump to protect younger immigrants, known as "dreamers", who were brought to the US illegally as children.
Trump last month announced plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that had provided two-year work permits to the dreamers that Trump called "unconstitutional".
In his letter to the Congress last night, Trump demanded that these principles must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
"Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end," he asserted.
Arguing for a merit-based immigration system, Trump told the Congress that the current immigration system does not serve the national interest as it prioritises extended family-based chain migration over skills-based immigration.
"Decades of low-skilled immigration has suppressed wages, fueled unemployment and strained federal resources," he rued.
The administration proposes establishing a merit-based immigration system that protects US workers and taxpayers, and ending chain migration, to promote financial success and assimilation for newcomers, he said.
Trump proposed ending extended-family chain migration by limiting family-based green cards to spouses and minor children and replace it with a merit-based system that prioritises skills and economic contributions over family connections.
He called for establishing a new point-based system for awarding the green cards (lawful permanent residents) based on factors that allow individuals to successfully assimilate and support themselves financially; eliminate the diversity visa lottery and limit the number of refugees to prevent the abuse of the US Refugee Admissions Programme.
Trump also proposed to increase the number of officials involved in enforcement, hiring an additional 10,000 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers and 1,000 attorneys, 370 immigration judges and 300 federal prosecutors.
Trump's list was criticised by Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
"The administration can't be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans, Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.
The two said they were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable.
"The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so," the statement said.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, however, said that Trump has put forth a series of proposals that will restore the rule of law to immigration system, prioritise America's safety and security, and end the lawlessness.
"These are reasonable proposals that will build on the early success of President Trump's leadership. This plan will work. If followed it will produce an immigration system with integrity and one in which we can take pride. Perhaps the best result will be that unlawful attempts to enter will continue their dramatic decline, he said.
Leading civil rights group American Civil Liberties Union, opposed the proposals.
Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union, said lawmakers should recognise that these policies are a non- starter.
Beth Werlin, executive director of American Immigration Council said the White House Immigration Principles and Policies are no more than the immigration restrictionists' wish list.