By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump unveiled Thursday his broad proposal to overhaul the U.S.'s immigration program, which would, if enacted, divergently shift the system toward seeking skilled labor and potential job creators.
The plan, which is unlikely to gain traction in a divided Congress, had long been in development within his administration, being spearheaded by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s far-right senior advisor Stephen Miller also helped lead the effort.
It would not only increase security at U.S. borders, but would also dramatically increase the the educational and skills requirements for individuals seeking to immigrate.
The latter changes would be most clearly manifested in the U.S.'s green card system that is currently heavily based on a lottery, familial relations and employer sponsorship.
That would be changed to a points-based merit system preferring high-skilled, highly-educated individuals and job creators in what Trump called a "Build America Visa".
The total number of immigration papers in that program, Trump said, would not change.
Trump said if his plan is adopted it would be the "pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world” because it "builds upon our nation's rich history of immigration while strengthening the bonds of citizenship that bond us together as a national family."
The president claimed the current system discriminates against "genius."
“We discriminate against brilliance. We won’t anymore once we get this passed,” he said.
Trump's plan comes as those of his two immediate predecessors -- George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- were unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform packages due to partisan differences within Congress, which has to sign off on any potential overhaul.
That trend is likely to continue under Trump with many Republicans not signaling whether they will support the president's proposal, and with near-unanimous opposition among Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the use of "merit" to describe the plan "condescending,” ahead of its formal rollout.
"Are they saying family is without merit?" Pelosi asked rhetorically. "Are they saying most of the people who have ever come to the United Sates in the history of our country are without merit because they don't have an engineering degree?"
Perhaps acknowledging the tough road ahead, the president said the plan may play a key role in his 2020 re-election campaign, suggesting if Democrats in Congress stymy it "we will get it approved immediately after the election when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and of course, hold the presidency.”
"But wouldn’t it be nice to do it sooner than that? It’s not much time, though, 16 months,” Trump said alluding to the 2020 election.
It is unclear if any of the electoral scenarios Trump predicted will come to pass.