Trump pushes for merit-based immigration, embraces role as negotiator-in-chief

The leadership, during the close-door session, agreed to negotiate and narrow down the focus to four issues -- border security, chain migration, visa lottery, and DACA.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2018 08:55 IST
Agencies, Washington
Trump,Donald Trump,US President
US President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, on Tuesday.(REUTERS)

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday pushed for merit-based immigration system, saying we should only allow people, having “great track record”, to enter the US.

“I would like to add the words “merit” into any bill that’s submitted because I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada, like they have in Australia. So we have people coming in that have a great track record, as opposed to what we’re doing now, to be honest with you,” he said, during his meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House.

Trump signalled he was open to more comprehensive immigration reform to address millions of other undocumented people living in the shadows, but did not give ground to Democrats over his plans for a border wall.

“It should be a bill of love,” Trump said of a measure under negotiation that would protect hundreds of thousands of so-called “Dreamers” from deportation. “But it also has to be a bill where we’re able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace. A lot of people are coming in that we can’t have,” Trump added, urging lawmakers to “put country before party” and strike a quick solution.

Trump’s comments found support from several lawmakers.

“I want to get a merit-based immigration system to make sure we can succeed in the 21st century, and I’m willing to be more than fair to the 11 million. I just don’t want to do this every 20 years,” Senator Lindsay Graham said.

When House Majority Leader Congressman Kevin McCarthy said the reform would focus on three pillars -- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, border security and ending chain migration, Trump interrupted, asking him to “add merit” in any immigration legislation.

“I think you should add merit. I mean, if you can, add merit-based. I don’t think -- I don’t know who is going to argue with merit-based? Who can argue with merit-based?” he asked amid laughter from those present in the room.

A legislation in this regard is expected to be presented in the next few days.

Reiterating his call for border security -- of which a wall along the Mexico border is an integral part -- Trump said it also has to be a bill to end chain migration.

“Chain migration is bringing in many, many people with one, and often it doesn’t work out very well. Those many people are not doing us right,” he said and called for ending the visa lottery system.

“I’m appealing to everyone in the room to put the country before party, and to sit down and negotiate and to compromise, and let’s see if we can get something done,” the US president said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders described the meeting as “successful”.

“The president just concluded what we felt was a very successful and productive bipartisan and bicameral meeting on immigration reform,” she said.

Sanders said the leadership, during the close-door session, agreed to negotiate and narrow down the focus to four issues -- border security, chain migration, visa lottery, and DACA.

“They all agreed the four things would be part of the negotiation. And beyond that, they could move into additional scope,” she said.

First Published: Jan 10, 2018 08:52 IST