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Mexico wall, end to visa lottery and family-based chain migration: Trump’s new immigration policy

If the president wins congressional backing for his immigration plans they will include four pillars tightening what he and his populist supporters see as weak links in the current law.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2018 11:59 IST
HT Correspondent and agencies, Washington
Donald Trump,Trump,State of Union address
US president Donald J Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the US House of Representatives on January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo)

President Donald Trump offered a deal on immigration in his first State of the Union address as he called for a “new American moment” of unity on Tuesday night. He also challenged lawmakers to make good on long-standing promises to fix a dangerously fractured immigration system, warning of evil outside forces seeking to undermine the nation’s way of life.

Trump’s proposal

Trump formally put before the Congress a four-pillar plan his administration had unveiled earlier. The first pillar, and one that might not find immediate support with the most vocal members of Trump’s anti-immigrant base, is a “path to citizenship” for 1.8 million undocumented migrants who arrived at a young age.

The second pillar, Trump said, “fully secures the border” by building a huge wall on the Mexican frontier and hiring more immigration agents.

The third pillar would end America’s Green Card lottery, and replace it with a so-called merit-based system for migrants with skills needed by US businesses.

And the fourth pillar – an idea that drew protests from Democrat lawmakers during the speech, would end “chain migration” policies that allow migrants to bring in family members

Congress logjam

Some Republicans are wary of the hardline elements of Trump’s plan and it’s unclear whether his blueprint could pass Congress.

An impasse over immigration prompted a three-day government shutdown earlier this year, and lawmakers appear no closer to resolving the status of the ‘Dreamers’ — young people living in the US illegally ahead of a new February 8 deadline for funding operations.

Trump eased into the proposal with dark warnings about deadly gangs, the scourge of drugs and violent immigrants living in the United States illegally. He cast the debate over immigration — an issue that has long animated his most ardent supporters — as a battle between heroes and villains, praising the work of an immigration agent who arrested more than 100 gang members and saluting the families of two alleged gang victims.

Impact on India

Immigration reforms are expected to improve the situation for Indians, some undocumented but most others legally in the United States. Thousands of Indians live and work in the United States on the H-1B visa. Indian IT companies operating in the US, such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro , do not typically sponsor their H-1B employees for Green Card. They send them back to India at the end of the maximum stipulated period of six years allowed on this visa type.

If approved for Green Card, people on the H-1B visa wait in the US using extensions. For Indians, that wait could stretch for years, given the massive backlog caused by the system of per-country annual cap on the number of permanent residencies. By one estimate it would take an Indian 70 years to get there the current rate of clearance.

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 11:28 IST