Trump unveils immigration and border security bill in Cabinet meeting

U.S. President Trump holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump presented a bill to his Cabinet on Tuesday aimed at boosting border security and overhauling the current immigration system to make it more merit-based, a senior administration official said.

With U.S. lawmakers' August recess looming, the official did not give a timetable for introducing the bill to Congress, but described it as laying out the president's vision to rally Republicans around a detailed proposal.

The president will meet with Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy later on Tuesday to map out a way forward, the official added, requesting anonymity.

"The goal of this has been to unify the Republicans as much as possible around a plan," he said, noting that divisions with the GOP over policy issues had hindered immigration reform bids in the past.

"We'll see what leader McConnell and McCarthy want to do, if they want to put it for a vote. But at least the Democrats will know what the Republican unified position is," the official said.

The bill has 10 Republican Senate co-sponsors, he said.

While the White House has discussed it with some Democrats, the person added, it was unclear if it would win the support of members of the Democratic Party, which controls the House of Representatives.

Trump pledged to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico in his 2016 run for office, and has since fought with Congress and in the courts for funding to pay for the barrier.

On Monday, he touted weekend raids aimed at immigrants who had been ordered deported, as his administration seeks to deter a surge in Central American families seeking asylum in the United States after fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries.

The administration also said it would take steps to make it more difficult for immigrants arriving at the southern border to seek asylum in the United States, putting the onus on them to first ask for shelter in other countries.

In May, White House officials laid out principles for the plan which they have been working on over the past seven months.

The plan does not deal with the "Dreamer" children of immigrants in the country illegally or immigrants under Temporary Protected Status, both priorities of Democratic lawmakers.

It does include a modified version of the so-called E-Verify program, which relies on a database that allows employers to electronically check the immigration status of potential employees.

A merit-based system could upend the decades-old U.S. practice of giving priority to family-based immigration. About two-thirds of all people granted green cards for U.S. residency each year have family ties to people in the United States.


(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason; Editing by Tom Brown)