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Trump Merit Based Immigration

Introduction: President Trump has stated since running for President that he would change our immigration system. Today, in response to the attack in New York City, President reiterated two things: (1) he would eliminate the diversity lottery; and (2) he would eliminate chain-immigration and reform the immigration system to create a merits-based system.

This article explains the following: (1) what is the diversity lottery; (2) what is chain-immigration; and (3) what is a merits-based system.

Diversity Lottery. The lottery is administered by the Department of State and conducted under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as amended by the Immigration Act of 1990. The lottery makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas annually and aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States, by selecting applicants from countries with low rates of immigration in the five years prior.

To enter the lottery, applicants must have been born in an eligible country. If selected, to qualify for the immigrant visa, they must have completed at least a high school education or at least two years of work experience in an occupation which requires at least two other years of training or experience. They must also satisfy general immigration requirements, such as means of support, no criminal background, and good health.

Eligibility is determined by the applicant's country of birth. In some cases, the applicant may use a parent's or spouse's country of birth instead. The country of residence or nationality is irrelevant. Those born in any territory that has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years are not eligible to receive a diversity visa. For DV-2019, natives of the following nations are ineligible: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

The reason why Trump is attacking the Diversity Lottery is because he has long singled out the Diversity Visa program as a potential gateway for terrorists to enter the United States. For example, Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov, the perpetrator of the 2017 New York City attack and Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the perpetrator of the 2002 Los Angeles International Airport shooting both entered the United States through the lottery.

Chain-Immigration. Chain Migration refers to the endless chains of foreign nationals who are allowed to immigrate to the United States because citizens and lawful permanent residents are allowed to sponsor their non-nuclear family members. Critics say that chain-immigration has caused legal immigration in the U.S. to quadruple from about 250,000 per year in the 1950s and 1960s to more than 1 million annually since 1990.

Critics further say that chain-immigration is one of the chief culprits in America's current record-breaking population boom and all the attendant sprawl, congestion, and school overcrowding that damage Americans’ quality of life.

Merit-Based Immigration System. While there is no clear cut understanding of what Trump is seeking to do, the Merits-Based System could come in several forms:

Family Immigration: Trump may limit the quantity of people that come to the United States under the current family based immigration system. He would seek to raise the standards needed to come. Currently, immigration is based on relationship, not on other factors such as wealth or education.

Employment Immigration: There would be created a merit-based visa system that would award green cards based on a holistic assessment of an alien’s skills, education, work history, ties to the United States, knowledge of the English language, business activities, community service, and country of nationality. The merit-based system would start out with 120,000 annual visas and would potentially grow to a ceiling of 250,000 visas per year, depending on demand.

The merit-based system would be divided into two tiers, one for high-skilled workers (Tier 1) and one for medium to low-skilled workers (Tier 2). Each year starting in the fifth fiscal year after approval of the act, 50% of the visas would be allocated to each tier. Unused visas from the previous year would be able to be utilized for the next year’s applications in proportions allocated to both tiers. Tier 1 positions are for jobs that require extensive and considerable preparation and Tier 2 positions are for jobs that require medium preparation or less to perform. These terms are borrowed from and modeled after current O*Net “Job Zones” terminology.

While the president has yet to offer details, a merit-based system would pose its own challenges to economic prosperity. Critics believe that a merit-based system that prioritizes high-skilled workers could hurt the economy by harming industries that rely on low-skill immigrant labor, and that fears that immigrants are not assimilating or are overly reliant on the social safety net are overblown.