Most of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and initiatives have been both harsh and ill-advised. From his policy of separating migrant adults and children at the border to his reduced acceptance of refugees to his encouragement of more aggressive tactics by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Trump has needlessly targeted the most vulnerable people trying to get into the country.

Meanwhile, various Trump administration initiatives have made life harder for H-1B visa applicants and holders, immigrant entrepreneurs, overseas students and immigrants serving in the U.S. military. Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on a vow to limit immigration to the U.S., seems to be doing his best to keep that promise.

However, so far, Trump has been nibbling around the edges, unable to touch the main pillar of U.S. immigration — the green-card system. In 2017, the U.S. granted more than a million lawful permanent residencies, a number little changed from recent years. Now, with Democrats in control of the House, the core of the U.S. immigration system looks likely to remain intact.

But Trump recently released another proposal for reforming legal immigration that deserves some consideration. Designed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the bill wouldn’t reduce overall legal immigration levels; instead, it would shift green cards away from family sponsorship and the lottery now used to ensure geographical diversity and toward skills-based immigration. It would also include measures for increased border security, including Trump’s long-sought border wall.

The idea of shifting to a more merit-based legal immigration system is a good one. Because the American public as a whole demands some sort of numerical limit on immigration, it’s probably good to make sure that a high percentage of those immigrants have employable skills that will allow them to thrive in the U.S., and to help the U.S. maintain its technological dominance. Skilled immigrants also tend to come with big fiscal benefits for cash-strapped local and state governments.

The U.S. regime now is tilted less toward immigrants with skills than the systems in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The details of the Trump-Kushner proposal are still vague, but it promises to bring the skilled percentage up to 57 percent, while reducing the family percent to 33 percent. If done right, that would be a good idea.

The current system isn’t bad — the education levels of U.S. immigrants have gone up a lot in recent years all on their own. But Canada’s system works great, and the U.S. might as well copy its success. Skilled immigration is also extremely popular with the U.S. public.

Some will inevitably leap to defend the sanctity of the present system. But there’s no deep moral reason that the U.S. system is so heavily tilted toward family sponsorship, which is largely an accident of history.

In 1965, when the outlines of the current immigration system were put in place, Rep. Michael Feighan of Ohio was worried that the new law would lead to too much non-white immigration. So he insisted on increasing the percentage of slots for family sponsorship, reasoning that they would mostly go to the European family members of white Americans. Of course, things didn’t turn out that way. But it’s important to remember that the U.S.’s family-focused system is the result of a policy that was racist by design.

Although the basic idea of a more skills-based system is a good one, the devil is in the details. Most family-based immigrants to the U.S. — about two-thirds — are the immediate family of U.S. citizens, and are thus not covered under the quota system put in place in 1965. If the Trump-Kushner plan would bring citizens’ immediate family members under the quota system, then it should be regarded as a non-starter.

Also, preventing permanent residents from bringing their own spouses and children over, as some predict the plan will do, would be a very bad change. Limitation of family sponsorship immigration should be done only by reducing the number of visas allocated toward siblings and adult children.

So, instead of rejecting Trump and Kushner’s plan, Democrats should give it a fair hearing. If the details are reasonable, the Democrats should consider cutting a deal — relief for undocumented immigrants facing deportation, and a path to citizenship, in exchange for border security and a rebalancing of legal immigration toward merit and skills.

That deal, which would be similar to a broad immigration reform proposed in the Senate in 2013, would have the potential to make the U.S. system better for the next century.

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Noah Smith is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.