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Where's Trump the negotiator when immigration reform needs him?

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

But as satisfying as his base might find Trump's attack of his fellow New Yorker, it's way off target. The diversity visa lottery was signed into law in 1990 by Trump's fellow Republican President George H.W. Bush after it passed both houses of Congress by wide, bipartisan margins.

It also, ironically, was created mainly to benefit European applicants, especially from Ireland.

Schumer and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, cosponsored the 1990 bill, mainly to help legalize Irish immigrants who had overstayed their visas as they watched other ethnic groups move ahead of them in the immigration queue under the 1965 Immigration Act.

But by the time the new law went into effect in 1995, Ireland's economic boom and other factors reduced the number of European lottery winners and raised the numbers coming from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Has Congress tried to change the program? Yes -- and with Schumer's help, too. But the effort has run into a snag, like many other major issues, in congressional gridlock.

For example, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia have introduced a bill that Trump has endorsed to replace the diversity lottery with a merit-based point system and to reduce the number of green cards issued per year.

But merit is in the eye of the beholder. Progress has been stalled by disagreements over how much to cut back green cards, if at all, and how stiff the merit-based system should be in favoring high skills, education and English proficiency.

As with other major legislation, immigration reform needs the president's active engagement in pushing legislation through Congress. That shouldn't be too much to ask of a president who made immigration and stronger borders the tent poles of his campaign.

Failure to get something passed now would devastate Trump's brand as a dealmaker. But, if worse comes to worse, I'm sure he'll find someone to blame for it.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

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