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WASHINGTON (AP) The White House is embarking on a major campaign to turn public opinion against the nation’s largely family based immigration system ahead of an all out push next year to move toward a more merit based structure.

The administration was laying the groundwork for such a drive even before an Islamic State inspired extremist who was born in Bangladesh tried to blow himself up in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. workers.

“We believe that data drives policy, and this data will help drive votes,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, for what the administration considers, “common sense America first immigration controls the president has proposed.”

White House officials outlined their strategy this week exclusively to The Associated Press, and said the data demonstrates that changes are needed immediately. But their effort will play out in a difficult political climate, as even Republicans in Congress are leery of engaging in a major immigration debate ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The issue is expected to be prominently featured in the president’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address. The White House also plans other statements by the president, appearances by Cabinet officials and a push to stress the issue in conservative media. from 2005 to 2016 were following family members already in the United States. And just one in 15 immigrants admitted in the last decade by green card entered the country because of their skills. jails, assessments of the immigration court backlog and delays in processing asylum cases, and a paper on what the administration says is a nexus between immigration and terrorism.

Critics have questioned the administration’s selective use of sometimes misleading data in the past. immigration system in 30 years. It would end what critics and the White House refer to as “chain migration,” in which immigrants are allowed to bring a chain of family members to the country, and replace it with a points based system that favors education and job potential “merit” measures that have increasingly been embraced by some other countries, including Britain. is ill served by the current system, “transparency is their best friend.”

“The more people know the real numbers, the more they’ll begin to understand that this is bad for American workers and this is bad for American security. And quite frankly, when these numbers come out in totality, we believe it’s going to be virtually impossible for Congress to ignore,
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” he said.

The public is sharply divided on the types of changes President Donald Trump is advocating.

A Quinnipiac University poll in August found that 48 percent of voters opposed a proposal that Trump has backed to cut the number of future legal immigrants in half and give priority to immigrants with job skills rather than those with family ties in this country. Forty four percent of those polled including 68 percent of Republicans supported the idea.

The White House hopes to see Congress begin to take up the issue early in 2018 though it has yet to begin discussions with congressional leaders over even the broad strokes of a legislative strategy, officials said. illegally as children. These include the construction of a border wall, tougher enforcement measures and moving to a more merit based legal immigration system. In September, Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix to allow the young immigrants known as “Dreamers” to stay in the country, creating an early 2018 crisis point he hopes will force Democrats to swallow some of his hardline demands.

For those who have been pushing for an end to chain migration for decades, it’s a welcome push.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which advocates for lower immigration levels, among other changes, recently began a national radio campaign warning of what it sees as the dangers of chain migration and the diversity visa lottery program.

Research, he said, has shown that allowing immigrants to reunite with their families is one of the best integration tools. And family members bring their own skills, as well as support networks and other benefits, such as help with child care.

“This is a society that’s founded on family values,” Cantor said, arguing that, for many who have become citizens or legal residents,
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reuniting with siblings and other extended family members is crucial.