President Donald Trump unveiled his long awaited—and already widely despised—immigration plan on Thursday.
During an unusually muted Rose Garden ceremony (it’s a particularly delicious bit of irony that the Trump reportedly skipped the opening of the new Statue of Liberty museum to deliver his speech) the president insisted his plan would “transform America’s immigration system into the pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world.” He also framed the plan to restrict asylum seekers and prioritize certain green card applicants over others as a patriotic win for the entire country.
Broadly, Trump’s plan focuses on two areas of immigration policy: his hobby horse of “border security” (conspicuously, the president did not use the word “wall” during his speech), and retooling America’s legal immigration system to a “merit” based approach that would emphasize an applicant’s level of education and job prospects.
“Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages, and frankly lawless chaos,” Trump claimed during his address, in which he desperately attempted to spin his proposal as “pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker.”
Among the policies Trump also pitched were mandatory English comprehension for all immigration seekers as well as a “civics” test—something that already exists for those applying to become naturalized citizens.
Trump also attacked the existing asylum process, claiming “those lodging frivolous claims” were abusing the system.
His plan, he argued, would “humanely reunite unaccompanied children with their families back home”—something the administration is already supposed to be doing—saying that, “If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted.”
“If you don’t,” he continued, “you will promptly be returned home.”
Trump concluded his speech by urging Democrats to help pass his proposal, but threatened that without their support he would simply wait until Republicans could recapture the House majority after the 2020 elections.
That confidence, however, seemed to belie the fact that even members of his own party aren’t particularly enthusiastic about the proposal—especially after White House advisor Jared Kushner’s bumbling attempt to pitch it to them earlier this week left them with serious doubts about the plan and Kushner himself.
“I don’t see that the will is there to do it,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito told CNN after the president’s speech. “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.”
Maine Sen. Susan Collins was equally downbeat, telling the Washington Post on Wednesday that she was “concerned about the fate of the DACA young people [who] cannot be excluded from any immigration package.” (White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Thursday that DACA had been “left out on purpose” from the president’s plan because “it’s a divisive thing.”)
Trump sycophant Lindsey Graham also threw a measure of cold water on Trump’s proposal, saying yesterday, “We all know you’re not going to pass this without dealing with the other aspects of immigration.”
But some members of Trump’s cheering squad were more optimistic, with one Fox News opinion writer calling the speech a“game changer.” So if—or, in all likelihood, when—Trump’s plan crashes and burns in Congress, the president will still reserve the right to rage, whine, and blame Democrats for the inevitable.