In the exchange with Diaz-Balart on immigration, President Trump alternately said that he is about to sign either "a big immigration bill" or a "big executive order" or a "major immigration bill as an executive order" that will give DACA beneficiaries "a road to citizenship," a power that he erroneously contended the Supreme Court had just given him.
In the excerpt, the President contends of DACA and his promised executive action, "we will put it in" and then "we are probably then going to be taking it out," explaining that "we are working out the legal complexities right now."
U.S. Legal Immigration System. The current legal immigration system in the United States is set out in law, enshrined in the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is based on three pillars.
- Family-Based Immigration. Most legal immigration occurs through the family-based pillar. This permits United States citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) to petition to have close relatives (spouses,, parents, children, and siblings in the case of U.S. citizens and spouses and children in the case lf LPRS) join them permanently in the United States as immigrants. About 480,000 immigrants are admitted to the United States each year through family-based immigration.
- Employment-Based Immigration. In the second pillar, employees immigrate to the United States permanently as workers. Almost all employment-based immigrants, except some very high-skilled immigrants and investors, must have an employer who will sponsor them for a visa. About 140,000 immigrants are admitted to the United States each year through employment-based immigration.
- Humanitarian Migrants. In the third pillar, individuals are admitted to the United State for humanitarian reasons. The main sources of these admissions are the U.S. refugee admissions program and grants of asylum. There is no annual cap set in U.S. law to these admissions. The President each year determines how many refugees the U.S. will admit from abroad. And the number of asylees admitted depends on an adjudicatory process that applicants undergo. Generally, though, the number of these admissions has been well under 200,000 each year.
There are several other paths that result in relatively small numbers of persons being admitted to the U.S. as immigrants, such as the Diversity Visa (colloquially referred to as the visa lottery program).
In addition to the system of admitting people to the United States as legal immigrants, there is a system of admitting people temporarily (referred to as nonimmigrants). Some of these are admissions for temporary employment, tourism, or as students.
Dreams of a "Merit-Based" Immigration System. Immigration restrictionists have long floated the notion of transforming the United States immigration system into a "merit-based" system. Under this notion, family-based immigration to the United States would either be greatly reduced or eliminated altogether in favor of the immigration of persons who have "preferred" skills, abilities, or attributes. Some who support this idea also would give preference to persons who speak English or have advanced degrees.
President Trump and others in his Administration have spoken for years about transforming the United States immigration system into a "merit-based" one. Presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner has reportedly drafted a 600 page-long bill that would do this, along with other yet-to-be-publicly-revealed changes in immigration law. And the President has repeatedly suggested that he might consider trading some sort of protection for DACA recipients and the larger class of DREAMERs they are a part of for changes in law that would bring about the "merit-based" system he envisions. It is uncertain, however, what authority the Trump Administration believes it has that would enable him to accomplish such a transformation by executive action, alone.