Pelosi calls Trump immigration plan's focus on merit 'condescending'

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiOn The Money: Mnuchin signals officials won’t release Trump tax returns | Trump to hold off on auto tariffs | WH nears deal with Mexico, Canada on metal tariffs | GOP fears trade war fallout for farmers | Warren, regulator spar over Wells Fargo Budget chairs pick former Bush official to head CBO Barr jokes with Pelosi: ‘Did you bring your handcuffs?’ MORE (D-Calif.) slammed the White House’s immigration plan ahead of its rollout on Thursday, arguing its focus on basing immigration decisions on “merit” was “condescending.”

“It is really a condescending word. They’re saying family is without merit?,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference.

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The administration has opposed immigration programs that give advantages to immigrants with family members already in the United States, arguing such a system does not put enough emphasis on the nation’s economic needs.

“Are they saying most of the people who have ever come to the United States in the history of our country are without merit because they don’t have an engineering degree?” Pelosi said, drilling into the administration’s argument.

“Certainly we want to attract the best to our country, and that includes many people from many parts of society. So we’ll see what values are reflected there. We’ve only heard titles like merit, which is non-merit. It means merit in the eyes of Donald Trump.”

The White House plan crafted by senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump to launch uphill bid to overhaul immigration laws Graham unveils bill to overhaul asylum laws GOP officials unsatisfied with some answers from Kushner during immigration meeting: report MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNapolitano claims Trump violated separation of powers 3 times in last week Work on surprise medical bills goes into overdrive Trump pardons media tycoon, former GOP leader of California State Assembly MORE’s son-in-law, would create a “merit-based” system that would prioritize visas for migrants with certain job skills instead of relatives of other immigrants.

It also calls for new infrastructure at ports of entry that would seek to speed up commerce and curtail the flow of drugs.

Democrats have been adamant that any proposal coming from the White House must include safeguards for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as minors.

Pelosi said her caucus was open to discussing a White House plan if it “has certain principles,” though she added her members have not yet been briefed on the proposal.

“We have to, I believe, come to comprehensive immigration reform. I think the president knows that. I know that on the Republican side of the aisle there is a recognition that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform, but we have to do it in a way that secures our border, has a path to citizenship, respects the value of family to us, that has certain principles that we would agree to,” she told reporters. 

A senior administration official told The Hill Wednesday that Trump would use his plan to hammer Democrats in the 2020 election if they do not “engage” with the White House.

“It’s going to be a very detailed piece of legislation, and it can be what they want it to be,” the official said. “If they don’t want to engage, then it will be part of the election. If they want to engage, then it could be part of a negotiation. That’s going to be up to them.”

The White House thus far has focused on shoring up GOP support for the plan. Trump hosted a dozen Republican senators last week at the White House to discuss the proposal and Kushner briefed the Senate GOP conference Tuesday and House Republicans Wednesday.