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Posted: Friday, May 17, 2019 11:01 pm

President Trump on Thursday presented yet another immigration proposal that seeks to restrict the kinds of people who can enter this country. His merit-based plan would have applicants build points based on high-level degrees or vocational certification, English proficiency and other factors.

Visas wouldn’t be reduced but reallocated. The same number would be issued, but they no longer would be parceled out according to country of origin. Family-based immigration, which Trump has long opposed, would be eliminated.

The plan would give preference to highly skilled workers.

“We discriminate against genius,” the president explained.

He’s right, to a point. Many people have warned against allowing companies to hire immigrants for high-tech, high-paying jobs, saying the companies would pay immigrants less than U.S. citizens would demand for the same level of work.

This proposal, however, comes amid a national shortage of workers, both skilled and unskilled. Also, the administration released a report Wednesday indicating that the nation’s birth rate declined for the fourth consecutive year. That means fewer native-born workers entering the job market 15 years from now.

Job shortages will be across the board. Restricting visas to highly-skilled workers will leave many jobs unfilled.

We’ve already had worker shortages in the Rio Grande Valley. Growers have left produce in the fields and orchards because they had no workers to pick them. Shrimpers have been unable to head out to sea because they couldn’t find enough workers, and some have returned to port after just a few days because the U.S. workers they hired couldn’t do the job.

Hotels, restaurants and construction fields also rely heavily on immigrants without degrees. Stories abound of foreign workers have helped communities rebuild more quickly after disasters, such as New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Houston following Harvey in 2017.

Access to immigrant labor — including unskilled and semi-skilled — can be the only way to save a harvest or stay out of bankruptcy court.

Of greater concern is the total lack of mention of “Dreamers,” foreign nationals who were brought to this country as children. Trump has sought to treat them like any other immigrants, subject to deportation, even though they did not come to this country voluntarily and this is the only country they know. If they must compete with other immigrants for residency visas they might have the advantage of speaking English and having a U.S. education, but those who choose not to pursue higher education would face unreasonable risks of being sent to a country that is foreign to them even though they were born there.

If this proposal is offered to Congress, members should address such issues through amendments, and that would raise the same issues that have stalled immigration reform for years. Still, any action that would force Congress to stop avoiding the issue would be welcome.

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