Trump’s executive orders on immigration have taken a sharp turn from his predecessors’, both Obama and Bush, which favored families and welcomed refugees. But what would comprehensive immigration reform look like under the Trump administration?

The US’s immigration system hasn’t been reformed since the early 90’s. While several bipartisan bills have reached Congress, none have passed. Among one of the most controversial topics, which often stalls bills, is the question of what to do with the 40 million undocumented immigrants living in the US.

But with a Republican-controlled Congress, Trump is in a unique position to actually pass immigration reform legislation. While he has been vague about his immigration platform, we do know a few details. Trump plans to:

  • Allocate more visas based on merit (or skill)
  • Limit legal immigration
  • Enforce border security (namely by building the infamous wall across the Mexican border)

Merit-Based Visas

In an interview with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, Trump discussed his plan to transform the immigration system from family to “merit-based.” The system would prioritize highly-skilled immigrants. Trump said this would benefit technology companies, in particular in Silicon Valley.

“We’re going to have great people and people of great talent coming into our country,” Trump said. “And if you can think of this, some of the Silicon Valley companies want to build up in Canada, because in Canada, they’re able to get the people that they need and they can’t get them in this country because we don’t allow them in this country.”

The current system allocates over 60 percent of all green cards to relatives of US citizens and green card holders and only 15 percent to employment-based preferences. The other 14 percent go to refugees and diversity visa lottery applicants.

Limiting Legal Immigration

Trump says he wants to return the immigration population to “historical norms.” To do this would likely require decreasing the number of green cards issued yearly, perhaps drastically. Currently, the population is about 14 percent foreign-born, a historical high. The New York Times reported three scenarios in which Trump could reform immigration to reach his “historical norm” goal.

Scenario 1: Trump cuts the number of green cards issued by 51 percent.

Scenario 2: Trump cuts the number of green cards issued by 41 percent.

Scenario 3: Trump increases the number of immigrants by 212 percent (to meet Melting-Pot-era historical immigration high of 1900-1908).

It looks likely Trump will be decreasing the number of green cards.

Building the Wall

On Trump’s sixth day in office, he tweeted that he would be making good on his campaign promise to build a wall across the Mexican border. And Mexican will pay for it.
This promise is controversial for several reasons. Its cost is estimated at over $8 billion and its effect on limiting unauthorized immigration is questionable.