For more than half a century, immigrants have largely been able to come to the United States to live if they have immediate family members or a company willing to sponsor them for permanent employment and residence.
Now, however, there is a growing interest in possibly drastically reforming the existing immigration system based on family reunification and business sponsorship, all in the light of President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress on February 28, Which praised the merit or personal ability immigration systems used in Australia and Canada.
“I’m going to bring millions of jobs,” Trump said in the segment of his speech where he referred to the immigration system. “The current system is obsolete and depresses the wages of our poorer workers and puts pressure on taxpayers. Australia, Canada and many other countries have a merit based immigration system It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter our country must be able to support themselves financially, but in the United States we do not enforce this rule, Thus depleting the public resources that our poorest citizens depend on. ”
Later, in one of his many morning tunes, Trump indicated that he had obtained the idea for the system based on merit from Nick Adams, author of the book published in the 2016 Green Card Warrior: (Green Card Warrior: My Struggle for Legal Immigration in a System for Illegals).
“Nick Adams’ new book, Green Card Warrior, is a must read,” Trump wrote in his tweet. “The system based on merit is the way to go. Canada, Australia! “
Although Trump did not provide details on how he envisions a system based on merit, Adams’s book, rather than a road map for such a system, is a tirade against the current immigration system which, he claims, favors Undocumented immigrants.
But several interested federal lawmakers and several immigration lawyers who deal with visas for highly qualified business executives and immigrants have come up with possible scenarios of how a merit-based system would work.
At its most basic level, a merit immigration system would allow any foreigner to apply for permanent residence or green card based on their educational, intellectual or personal skills – without the need to have an immediate family member or a guaranteed job in the United States offered By a firm that is also willing to sponsor their petition for residence.
This change could also put an end to the current system of so-called “chain immigration”.
It is the practice that allows US citizens to claim not only their spouses and minor children who are foreigners, but also foreign adult children, siblings and parents. Then, once those family members are in the United States and become citizens, they can also claim similar relatives, and so on.
Tammy Fox-Isicoff, an immigration lawyer in Miami who specializes in business visas, said the immigration reform bill drafted by the bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of the Eight, which was passed in the Senate at the time. 2013, contained provisions for a merit-based system.
“The Gang of Eight bill passed by the Senate included a merit-based system for skilled workers and essential workers,” Fox-Isicoff said. “This bill also eliminated several other family categories as siblings of US citizens.”
Fox-Isicoff said that under the bill’s clauses, the merits to be taken into account would include education, job offer, family ties, age, country of origin, civic involvement and the ability to speak English.
“Many believe that with Trump’s merit-based system, it seeks to eliminate family-based immigration because it believes it undermines the United States,” Fox-Isicoff said. “Religious groups are against the reduction of family-based immigration because they believe that family unity is a core American value.”
Although the bill proposed a system based on merit, it did not seek to completely eliminate family immigration. It would have provided a maximum of 250,000 visas for foreigners with important skills, such as doctorates or masters, but it would also have allocated points for immigrants who are siblings or children married to Americans.
Although the Senate approved the bill, and then President Obama backed it, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives blocked it. One of its eight authors was Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of West Miami.
Under the current family and business system, most immigrants come as a result of family ties with Americans.
More than 60 percent of green card holders issued annually go to immigrants who have close relatives in the United States, according to official figures, while the opposite is true for Canadian immigrants.
A chart published by USA Today after Trump’s speech showed that about 63 percent of immigrants receiving permanent residence in Canada are admitted for economic skills, while only 24 percent receive residency on the basis of family ties.
David Cohen, a senior partner at the Campbell Cohen law firm in Montreal, which is dedicated to helping foreigners emigrate to Canada, said there has been increased interest in immigration to the neighboring country among people living in the United States.
“There is a significant increase [of interest] from the US,” Cohen said in a telephone interview last week. “However, most of those who express interest are not US citizens, but people in the United States with legal status, not undocumented, but who feel uncomfortable.”
Among US residents calling with questions about Canadian immigration, Cohen said, they hold professional visas like the H-1B as well as student visas, categories that Trump wants to restrict, according to recent press reports.
Cohen then explained how the Canadian immigration system works.
“In Canada we have divided immigration into three areas,” he said. “There is family reunification, the other is a humanitarian process, for refugees and asylum, and the third is economic immigration and represents more than 60 percent of all immigration to Canada.”
Cohen said the immigration system to Canada is attractive to immigrants around the world because it seeks to attract foreigners for their skills and work skills, rather than nationality or family ties.
“Essentially it does not matter if you are from Norway or the United Arab Emirates or the United States,” Cohen said. “Everyone is evaluated in the same way.”
Wilfredo Allen, an immigration lawyer in Miami, said that while it is true that Canada is recognized for its merit immigration system, it also has a strong system that welcomes refugees fleeing persecution in their countries.
“I’ve had some Colombian clients whose asylum cases were denied in Miami, but then they got asylum in Canada,” Allen said.