Skilled workers key to Trump’s push for Green Card overhaul

President Donald Trump speaks Thursday in the Rose Garden of the White House about modernizing the immigration system. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP photo via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) – With a focus on enticing skilled workers into the United States, President Donald Trump unveiled broad changes to the immigration system Thursday.

“Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker,” Trump said in remarks at the White House’s Rose Garden on this afternoon. “It’s just common sense.”

As laid out by Trump in the speech, the plan calls for more investment in border-security efforts and makes changes to the asylum system, long points of emphasis for the Trump administration.

But most importantly, the proposal would also create a new merit-based green card category that would award points to prospective immigrants if they possess certain skills, have a job offer or enter the country with an advanced degree.

Trump said highly skilled immigrants account for just 12 percent of people entering the United States but that his new plan would increase that figure to 57 percent.

“We discriminate against genius, we discriminate against brilliance,” Trump said. “We won’t anymore, once we get this passed, and we hope to get it passed as soon as possible.”

Trump also said the proposal would put new conditions on prospective immigrants, requiring them to learn English and pass a civics exam before coming into the country.

The proposal is not likely to go far in Congress, especially with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the proposal “cruel” and blasted the administration for not trying to bring together Republicans and Democrats to craft a bipartisan reform bill.

“Truth be told, the reported White House plan isn’t a serious attempt at immigration reform,” Schumer said on Thursday, before Trump’s speech. “If anything, it’s a political document that is anti-immigration reform.”

Democrats in particular blasted Trump’s proposal for not addressing the issue of people who are living in the country illegally after having been brought to the United States as children. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said earlier in the day that the plan did not include a solution for the so-called Dreamers because the administration’s previous plans addressing the issue failed.

Schumer said the plan is similar to others the administration has backed in the past two years that failed to pass through Congress.

Last year, the administration put forward a plan calling for a path to citizenship between 10 and 12 years for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. That proposal also called for major changes to how the legal immigration system operates by limiting the focus of family migration and eliminating the visa lottery program.