In looking around the world at immigration policies, you'll find Merit/Point-Based Immigration systems in a number of countries.
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
*Mexico doesn't officially classify its immigration policy as a merit/point-based system, but has many of the same tenets as the system.
Running point-based immigration systems smoothly though is what many immigration experts say is the fly in the ointment.
They say that for an immigration compromise to endure, Congress might have to pass off control over the system to an executive branch agency capable of quick, flexible responses.
At a news conference Tuesday, President Trump, along with Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, unveiled a repackaged version of an immigration plan that was introduced to the Senate 10 years ago.
Among the highlights of the RAISE Act:
- Replaces the current permanent employment-visa framework with a skills-based system that rewards applicants based on their individual merits.
- Rewards education, English-language ability, high-paying job offers, past achievements, and entrepreneurial initiative.
- Eliminates the outdated Diversity Visa lottery system, which serves questionable economic and humanitarian interests.
As expected, Democrats and the mainstream media were in solidarity in their criticism of the plan. What was a bit unexpected was the dissension from the Republican Party, including Lindsey Graham, who said the plan would, "devastate South Carolina."
In a NY Times interview nearly 10 years ago to the day, Graham said of virtually the same immigration point system:
"America needs an immigration system that can compete for the best minds that exist in the world. The new system (point system) does it better than the old system." - US Sen. Lindsey Graham
The same article notes that the merit system was not only proffered by then President George W. Bush, but was also given the green light by then Senator Barack Obama.
In the heat of his first presidential campaign, Obama offered an amendment to end the point-based system after a five-year trial run, but voted Yes to S. 1639, which would have created a merit-based immigration system in the United States.
The bill failed to pass.
60 Votes Needed
As for Trump's plan, it's the support from Republicans that will eventually determine the future of the bill, which needs 60 votes to pass the Senate.
But as we saw with health care reform, that will be an steep climb. Just look at reaction from two Republicans from Texas:
Rep. Lamar Smith from San Antonio:
“Our current system fails to prioritize immigration based on skills and abilities. Existing immigration policies do not prioritize the interests of American workers and taxpayers. The RAISE Act ensures that our legal immigration system admits those with the highest training and abilities to spur economic growth and innovation.”
Rep. Will Hurd from San Antonio:
"If you can't have a bipartisan piece of legislation on immigration, it's not going to go anywhere in the Senate."
Point/Merit-Based Immigration History
Point based immigration is inspired by the immigration policies of Canada, Australia and of all countries Mexico.
One of the tenets of Mexico's immigration law that's common with Trump's policy states:
"Mexico welcomes only foreigners who will be useful to Mexican society."
The commonality of the countries lies in the system where applicants with better work skills have a better chance of being admitted.
In 1967, a points system was introduced in Canada to rank potential immigrants for eligibility. Race, color, or nationality were not factors in the new system; rather, work skills, education levels, language ability (in speaking French or English), and family connections became the main considerations in deciding who could immigrate.
This is the crux of the Trump plan.
If a similar version of Trump's plan passes Congress, it would revolutionize the American system, but in today's political climate and 24-hour news cycle, scoring partisan political points appears more important than enacting a point-based immigration system.