New Trump immigration plan may increase visas for highly-skilled workers

WASHINGTON, April 24 (Reuters) - A merit-based immigration proposal being put together by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner could lead to an increase in U.S. visas for highly skilled workers, sources familiar with the effort said on Wednesday.

Kushner is expected to present the comprehensive plan next week to President Donald Trump, who will decide whether to adopt it as his official position or send it back for changes, the sources said.

The plan does not propose ways to address young people who came to the United States illegally as children who were protected by President Barack Obama in the 2014 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or those people who have Temporary Protected Status, the sources said.

Democrats, whose support the White House would need to advance any kind of immigration legislation through Congress, have insisted that the DACA recipients be protected.

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Jared Kushner with Donald Trump through the years
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Jared Kushner with Donald Trump through the years
NEW YORK CITY, NY - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner attend Quest and Q Magazines Host Ivanka Trump Book Party at Trump Tower on October 14, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump attend the COMEDY CENTRAL Roast of Donald Trump at the Hammerstein Ballroom on March 9, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: (L-R) Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Bonnie Brooks and Ivana Trump attend LORD & TAYLOR Launches IVANKA TRUMP's Spring 2012 Collection at Lord & Taylor on March 28, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 9: Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Chiu-Ti Jansen, Jared Kushner attend YUE MAGAZINE Gala Launch Party Hosted by JARED KUSHNER & CHIU-TI JANSEN at the Atrium at Trump Towers on May 09, 2012 in New York City (Photo by- MIREYA ACIERTO/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 8: Donald Trump and Jared Kushner attend the The New York Observer- Masters of Real Estate at The Metropolitan Club on November 8, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: (L-R) Donald Trump, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jared Kushner attend The New York Observer 25th Anniversary at Four Seasons Restaurant on March 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 1: (L-R) Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Lara Spencer and David Haffenreffer attend The New York Observer's New Look Hosted by Jared Kushner and Joseph Meyer at Casa Lever on April 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: (L-R) Eric Trump, Lara Yunaska Trump, Donald Trump, Barron Trump, Melania Trump, Vanessa Haydon Trump, Kai Madison Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Donald John Trump III, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Tiffany Trump pose for photos on stage after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally at Concord High School with his daughter Ivanka Trump, and son in law Jared Kushner in Concord, NH on January 18, 2016. (Photo by Rick Friedman/rickfriedman.com/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 16: (L to R) Newly selected vice presidential running mate Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and Vanessa Trump stand on stage at the end of an event at the Hilton Midtown Hotel, July 16, 2016 in New York City. On Friday, Trump announced on Twitter that he chose Pence to be his running mate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
American real estate developer and presidential candidate Donald Trump (center) greets family members on stage during the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. Pictured are, from left, daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, Trump, his wife, Melania, and son, Barron. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 12: GOP nominee Donald Trump, points to the crowd after accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday July 21, 2016. Behind Trump from left are daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, daughter in law Vanessa Trump, and son Donald Trump, Jr. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
MANCHESTER, NH - NOVEMBER 07: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (C) is joined on stage by his family (L-R) Lara Yunaska, Eric Trump, Vannessa Trump, Donald Trump Jr., vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Tiffany Trump during a campaign rally at the SNHU Arena November 7, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. With less than 24 hours until Election Day in the United States, Trump and his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, are campaigning in key battleground states that each must win to take the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner (R), as his daughter Ivanka Trump, (L), stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 1: President-elect Donald Trump and Jared Kushner take a tour of Carrier Corporation in Indianapolis, IN on Thursday, Dec. 01, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, as he is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family while he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017. From left are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite - Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner after the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn (L) and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (R) listen to U.S. President Donald Trump deliver opening remarks during a meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Business leaders included Elon Musk of SpaceX, Mark Sutton of International Paper, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical, Mario Longhi of US Steel, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Wendell Weeks of Corning, Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies and others. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (L) and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly (R) listen while US President Donald Trump puts his papers away at the beginning of a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: The name place card for White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, who is also the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, sits on the table before a meeting about cyber security in the Roosevelt Room at the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Citing the hack of computers at the Democratic National Committee by Russia, Trump said that the private and public sectors must do more to prevent and protect against cyber attacks. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Trump, listens to President Trump during a listening session with cyber security experts in the Roosevelt Room the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 3: President Donald Trump talks with IBM CEO Ginny Rometty, left, and adviser Jared Kushner before speaking to business leaders during a strategy and policy forum in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Friday, Feb. 03, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives alongside Vice President Mike Pence (C) and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (R) during a meeting with manufacturing CEOs in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, DC, February 23, 2017. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 15: U.S. President Donald Trump waves while walking to a waiting Marine One helicopter with son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner while departing the White House on March 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is scheduled to travel to Michigan and Tennessee today. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (3rdL), White House senior advisor Jared Kushner (4thL), US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (2ndL) and Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (hidden) take part in a bilateral meeting in Villa Taverna, the US ambassador's residence, in Rome on May 24, 2017. After a private audience wit Pope Francis early in the morning Trump's family will fly to Brussels this afternoon for meetings with EU and NATO officials before returning to Italy for the G7 summit in Sicily on May 26-27. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner (L) listen to Apple CEO Tim Cook (C) during an American Technology Council roundtable at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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Kushner has held about 50 listening sessions with conservative groups on immigration, a senior administration official said. He has been working with White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett and policy adviser Stephen Miller on the plan and the sources said there has been some intense behind-the-scenes jockeying about the plan.

At a Time magazine forum in New York on Tuesday, Kushner said he was working well with Miller, an immigration hawk, on the topic. The two men are both long-time Trump advisers.

"Stephen and I haven't had any fights," he said with a smile.

That drew skepticism from immigration advocate Marshall Fitz of the Emerson Collective, who gave Kushner credit for advancing criminal justice reform but said immigration was a dramatically different issue that Miller was dominating at the White House.

"It's impossible to see how Kushner could navigate an issue this freighted with history and central to the president's re-election strategy in a way that would actually move the ball forward," Fitz said.

As a White House candidate in 2016 and throughout his presidency, Trump has advocated a hard-line policy on immigration, pushing for a wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border and using bruising rhetoric to describe people who have fled Central American countries to enter the United States.

Republicans have largely supported his immigration proposals, but the latest White House plan aims to bring them together on a broader basis.

Some in the U.S. business community have asked that the number of highly skilled visas be raised to attract more employees from abroad for specialized jobs amid a booming U.S. economy. Trump himself has talked of the need to bring in more skilled workers.

The immigration plan would either leave the number of highly skilled visas each year at the same level or raise it slightly, the sources said.

The overall goal is to reshape the visa program into a more merit-based system, a key Trump goal. Officials working on the plan have been reviewing the systems used by Canada and Australia as possible models for the Trump effort.

The group has been working on a guest-worker program as part of the proposal to address the U.S. agriculture community's need for seasonal labor while not hurting American workers, but nothing has been finalized, the sources said. Trump has sought to court farmers in key battleground states to boost his chances of re-election in 2020.

The proposal will include recommendations for modernizing ports of entry along the U.S. border to ensure safe trade while preventing illegal activity. It will also address asylum laws to take account of Trump's desire to reduce the number of people who overstay their visas, the sources said.

Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law, is also a main architect of a Middle East peace proposal that the president is expected to unveil this summer.

His objective on the immigration plan at the very least is to have a document that represents the president's immigration policy and provide something that Republicans can rally around. (Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg Editing by Tom Brown)

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