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  1. ITV Report

Trump's immigration policy: Only the brightest and best will be allowed entry to the United States

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy in Washington

Immigration was at the heart of his first presidential campaign and as Donald Trump gears up for his second, the subject took centre stage once again.

Speaking from the Rose Garden of the White House, the President said he wanted to modernise America's immigration system.

Rather than the current family-based policies, which favour relatives of those already living in the United States, preference would be given to high-skilled immigrants such as scientists and engineers.

Green cards would be used to entice “top talent” to the nation he said, adding: ''Our plan is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker.''

Donald Trump wants to entice top talent to the US. Credit: AP

However, he failed to address what to do about the millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally - they are undocumented but work and pay taxes.

Nor did he address how to reduce overall rates of immigration - a key point for conservative Republicans.

Mr Trump, also avoided touching upon the future of hundreds of thousands of young people classed as “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. as children and live there illegally.

One of the first ever Muslim members of the US Congress, Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American who was born in Mogadishu, said Trump ''needed to do better'' with his immigration policies.

She spent four years in a refugee camp before she and her family eventually arrived in the US.

Ilhan Omar spoke to ITV News and said Trump needed to do better. Credit: ITV News

Ms Omar, who last month said she had seen an ''increase in direct threats'' to her life after Trump turned her into the target of a hate campaign after he tweeted about her, told ITV News: ''It is quite devastating to hear the way in which he talks about humans who are just looking for a new day.

''I was one of those and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to come to a country like the United States, to get the privilege of having my children be born here when I know some of the kids in the refugee camp with me never got that chance.''

A rally protesting against Trump's zero-tolerance immigration policy last year in Denver, US. Credit: AP

During today's speech Mr Trump abandoned some of the hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration which was a key feature of his first presidential campaign.

Mr Trump's plan has yet to be embraced by his own party — let alone Democrats — and faces dubious prospects in a divided Congress.

His latest effort, designed by his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, focuses on beefing up border security and rethinking the nation’s green card system so that it would favor people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers, instead of relatives of those already in the country.

Potential immigrants would be assessed using a point-based system, accounting for factors including age, English proficiency, whether each candidate has an offer of employment above a certain wage threshold, and educational and vocational certifications.

The proposed shift to a more merit-based system would mark a dramatic departure from the nation’s largely family based approach, which officials said gives roughly 66% of green cards to those with family ties and 12% based on skills.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already branded Mr Trump’s emphasis on merit-based immigration as “condescending” because families have merit, too.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “Dreamer” immigrants were not included in Mr Trump’s new plan because past proposals involving them have failed.