Visitors to Capital Slam Legal Immigration Bill

Family unity at risk in legal immigration bill White House endorsed Wednesday.

Legal immigration to the United States should not break up families, which is the “point of all our lives,” said Stephanie Hawkins, a legal contract specialist from New York City.

Visitors to the National Mall Saturday were united around one aspect of the proposal to curb legal immigration the White House endorsed Wednesday, they all said legal immigration should focus on keeping families together.

The legislation the White House recommended Wednesday has two primary goals. The first is to change the immigration system from one in which the goal is to keep families together to a pure merit based system. The second purpose of the proposed legislation is to limit legal immigration by 50 percent over the next decade.

The bill would reduce the total number of immigrants coming to the U.S. by reducing the number of people who can immigrate because of family connections, said The New York Times.

All six people, randomly selected at various intervals from the crowd on the National Mall, were asked one question:

Should the U.S. keep the family focused system of immigration it currently uses, or adopt the merit based system the White House endorsed Wednesday?

Tony Moura, who is originally from Brazil and recently moved to D.C. as a member of the U.S. military, said he understood the push toward a merit based system.

The White House should “find a middle ground between family focus and merit,” however, Moura said.

A lawyer from New Jersey, Jim Munolie, said it was “embarrassing” that the U.S. is trying to move toward a merit system.

Munolie said legal immigration should be allowed to continue as it is.

“We all come from somewhere,” Munolie said, and breaking families apart is “not what the United States is.”

James Callaham, an entrepreneur living in D.C., said a merit system makes sense on a practical level.

It’s more important to keep families together though, Callaham said.

A member of the Navy Reserve, Andrew Water, who got back from a year in the Middle East Monday, said that keeping families together should be the primary goal of immigration policy in the U.S.

Naval Operations service member Christopher Browning – who was touring the National Mall with his girlfriend – said he wondered if his grandparents, who immigrated to the U.S., would have gotten into the U.S. under the proposed legislation.

Browning said that the White House should keep families out of “political stunts.”

Two experts who gave phone interviews said legal immigration should not exclude family unity. However, they had differing opinions about whether the merit based system should be adopted.

Matt O’Brien, the Director of Research for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an advocacy group orchestrating advertisements to support the proposed legislation, said family based acceptance should be limited as much as possible.

The merit based system that the White House endorsed Wednesday is “fantastic – we think it’s long overdue,” said O’Brien.

Davis Bae, a business immigration lawyer and regional managing partner of the law firm Fisher & Phillips said the U.S. needs to move toward a merit system based on market value.

Bae said the merit based system should not have an exclusionary element and should embrace American values of family unity.

The system proposed by the White House Wednesday is “not the right merit based system though,” said Bae.

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