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

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump telling aides to look at potential spending cuts if he wins reelection: report Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony 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 talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Trump: 'We already started' talks to get A$AP Rocky home from Sweden Kim Kardashian West thanks Trump, Kushner for helping efforts to free A$AP Rocky from Swedish jail MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' 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.