WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump on Thursday (May 16) unveiled immigration reform proposals that would dramatically increase the quota for skilled workers.
"The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 per cent to 57 per cent, and we'd like to even see if we can go higher," Trump said.
"This will bring us in line with other countries and make us globally competitive."
"We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country. But a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill," he said at the White House.
Under the proposed reforms, immigrants will be "required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission," Trump said.
The US president also took aim at what he said were abuses of the country's asylum system.
"Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions. Unfortunately, legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims," Trump said.
The plan - which the US president said would make the country's immigration system "the envy of the modern world" - is unlikely to get far in the sharply divided US Congress.
Trump has staked his presidency on his insistence that the United States is being overrun by migrants and asylum seekers.
But opponents, mostly in the Democratic Party, say his push for building more barriers on the Mexican border and his frequent denunciations of migrants as dangerous criminals incites racial hatred.
The president declared an emergency to bypass Congress and unlock billions of dollars in funding for his controversial wall project, and has also deployed troops to the border with Mexico.