What's happening with immigration

3:30 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, there's not a lot of interest in touching immigration right now

Just before the White House unveiled its immigration proposal, the mood on Capitol Hill was largely one of shrugs.

The proposal — while many say is well-intentioned — isn’t expected to be the breakthrough that has eluded lawmakers for the entirety of Trump’s presidency (and Obama’s, for that matter).

Here's how some Republican senators are reacting:

  • West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito: “I don’t see that the will is there to do it. I commend the White House and the President for what I think is going to end up to be sort of a broad outline of things that are important, but I’m unfortunately pessimistic as to what the future holds. I just think both sides are going to have a hard time getting together on this.”
  • Maine Sen. Susan Collins: She said any immigration effort worth undertaking should include a fix for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, something that wasn’t expected to be part of the plan.
  • Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley: He said White House adviser Jared Kushner’s plan might “unite Republicans, which is something in this business,” but pressed on if it would survive in the Senate ... he noted the problem with the math. Senators would need 60 votes.  

The bottom line is the positions have been litigated. It’s not that lawmakers don’t know what needs fixing. They know that the middle ground is pretty narrow and hasn’t been found before especially in a White House where support can shift quickly and the President can be swayed by one TV segment name checking his proposals as amnesty.  

The reality is that if Republicans or Democrats were going to work together to get something done on immigration, it would have happened last year when members worked for weeks to craft a bipartisan solution that dealt with DACA, border security and the visa program. That plan was torpedoed by the administration just days before the vote after many Republicans had believed Trump was supportive of their effort.

3:06 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Trump says US will issue a new "Build America Visa" and require migrants to learn English

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump just announced plans to replace existing green cards with a new "Build America Visa."

Trump went on to describe the new immigration selection system he hopes to see implemented, which would include a new points-based system. He said migrants will be required to learn English and pass a civics exam.

"You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill and offer of employment and advanced education or a plan to create jobs," Trump said.

He added: "Priority will also be given to higher wage workers, ensuring we never undercut American labor. To protect benefits from American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient. Finally, to promote integration, assimilation and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission."

3:00 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Trump says measure would reunite unaccompanied minors and filter out "frivolous" asylum claims

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump says his bill will "humanely reunite unaccompanied children with their families back home" while filtering out what he called "frivolous" claims of asylum in the US.

"Legitimate asylum-seekers are being replaced by those lodging frivolous claims -- these are frivolous claims to gain admission into our country," he said in the Rose Garden.

"If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted. If you don't, you will promptly be returned home," he said of his newly unveiled immigration proposal.

In his remarks, Trump praised a separate measure being proposed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham that would, in part, change the current asylum process in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the southern border.

3:21 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Trump says his immigration plan will create a system that is "the envy of the modern world"

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump says a newly unveiled immigration plan would "transform America's immigration system into the pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world."

"Our proposal builds upon our nation's rich history of immigration, while strengthening the bonds of citizenship that bind us together as a national family," he said during a Rose Garden unveiling ceremony.

Trump boasted his measure was not drafted by politicians, but instead utilized input from law enforcement professionals to make the US southern border "100% operationally secure."

2:46 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Trump says his immigration plan puts American workers first

President Trump says an immigration plan he is unveiling Thursday provides a "clear contrast" with other proposals he's deemed unsatisfactory.

"Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages, and frankly lawless chaos," he said in the Rose Garden. "We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages and safety of American workers first."

"Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker," Trump said.
2:43 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Trump says his plan will secure the border and establish a new legal immigration system

President Trump, speaking from the Rose Garden today, laid out his new immigration plan, which he said includes two goals: securing the border and establishing a new legal immigration system.

Here's how Trump explained his plan:

"Our plan achieves two critical goals. First, it stops illegal immigration and fully secures the border and second it establishes a new legal immigration system that protects American wages, promotes American values, and attracts the best and brightest from all around the world. The proposal begins with the most complete and effective border security package ever assembled by our country or any other country for that matter."
2:38 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

NOW: Trump unveils immigration plan in White House Rose Garden

President Trump just began his remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

"We're here on this very beautiful spring day in the Rose Garden to unveil our plan to create a fair, modern and lawful system of immigration for the United States," the President said. "And it is about time."

Watch it live in the video player above.

1:45 p.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Some Republican senators are already "underwhelmed" by the plan

Even within the GOP, immigration is a divisive issue. And if Republicans were to reach a consensus, they'd still have to earn support among Democrats, who control the House of Representatives.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner briefed Senate Republicans on the plan Tuesday. After the meeting, some participants said they were "underwhelmed" by his proposal.

One of the officials acknowledged that the White House proposal would be a "much heavier lift" than Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposal to change the asylum process — and not all Republicans have bought into the plan.

"Right now, we're working with Sen. Graham and I know he's been working with Customs and Border (Protection) on how to deal with the immediate crisis," a senior administration official said. "This would solve the immediate crisis. But this is obviously a much heavier lift."

11:50 a.m. ET, May 16, 2019

Why some on Trump's team are willing to go further on immigration to get a deal

Ahead of today's immigration announcement, there are divisions inside President Trump's team about how big to go on the issue, according to a senior GOP source familiar with internal and external White House discussions.

Though influential players like Stephen Miller want to focus mostly on border issues, some, such as Jared Kushner, say they are willing to go bigger than what will be proposed today — such as including DACA — in order to get a deal.

Remember: The plan currently makes no mention about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also called DACA.

They are being reminded by GOP allies that they will be run into familiar issues, such as:

  1.  The President has to be willing to defy his base, many of whom will freak out if he lets anyone illegal formally stay in the US legally. He has not been willing to do this so far. Would he now, finally? Only if he can be shown he can win.
  2. To win, Democrats need to be convinced to come to the table, which to date has not been easy because they had the rug pulled out at the beginning of the administration. And now they’re politically stronger — in control of the House and hoping for a Democrat in the White House in 2021.