Trump's proposed immigration plan favours skilled English speakers
Donald Trump has unveiled a new immigration plan which favours younger, "totally brilliant", highly skilled workers who speak English.
"We want immigrants coming in. We cherish the open door," the US president said at the White House.
He said his new system, which awards points for those with advanced degrees, job offers and other attributes, will make it "clear what standards we ask you to achieve".
Adopting a softer tone than his typical rhetoric at campaigns, Mr Trump said immigrants would be "required to learn English and to pass a civics exam".
"Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions," Mr Trump said.
"Unfortunately, legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims."
Even before Mr Trump gave his speech Democrats attacked his plan and questioned the Republican Party's commitment to families.
"Are they saying family is without merit?" asked house speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Are they saying most of the people who've come to the United States in the history of our country are without merit because they don't have an engineering degree?"
Under Mr Trump's plan, officials want to shore up ports of entry to ensure all vehicles and people are screened and to create a self-sustaining fund, paid for with increased fees, to modernise ports of entry.
The plan also calls for building border walls in targeted locations and continues to push for an overhaul of the US asylum system, with the goal of processing fewer applications and more quickly removing those who do not qualify.
It also includes a proposal to allow public donations to pay for the border wall the president has promised for a long time.
The plan would see the US award the same number of green cards as it currently does, around one million annually, but far more would go to exceptional students, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees in lieu of family members of immigrants.
Mr Trump said 57pc would be awarded on merit as opposed to the current 12pc.
"Our plan is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker," Mr Trump said, arguing it contrasts with what he called Democrats' support of "chaos".
Republicans in Congress welcomed the plan.
"It's obviously just a start," said Texas GOP senator John Cornyn, who will be among those running for re-election in 2020. "It's a clear statement of what our immigration policy should be.
"We're not eliminating family connections, it's just adding an emphasis on merit."
Mr Trump's plan has been under preparation for months, a project of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been meeting with business groups, religious leaders and conservatives to find common ground among Republicans on the divisive issue of immigration.