ANDERSON — U.S. Sen. Todd Young believes the United States should develop a merit system for immigration that determines work skills.

During an interview by The Herald Bulletin on Thursday, the Indiana Republican proposed the opening of “virtual Ellis Island centers” around the world to match immigrants for legal entry into the U.S. based on their job skills.

Concerning the recent debate regarding immigration policy, Young said Congress has to change the legislation.

“We shouldn’t be separating children from their families,” he said. “We should have a properly secured border, end the catch-and-release policy and have legal certainty in the process.”

Young said he is an advocate to change immigration laws but doesn’t expect a solution prior to the November elections.

He said President Donald Trump has offered a path to citizenship for the so-called “dreamers” and has extended those qualifications to other immigrants.

Young said legal immigration should be changed significantly.

“We should base immigration on workforce needs,” he said. “Match up people to the skills needed for jobs in this country.”

Young said the Department of Labor has guidelines for necessary job skills.

He said the Trump administration made the decision to end the catch-and-release policy that was implemented by President Barack Obama.

“We depended on an honor system,” Young said. “We trusted people would show up for a court date.”

The immigration issue is one of humanitarian and national security.

“It’s an issue of failing to act that has caused the problem,” Young said. “We need to change the law in a bipartisan manner.”

Regarding the tariff dispute with China, Young said China has been waging a trade war with the U.S. since 2000.

China has taken intellectual properties, dumped products into the U.S. and manipulated their currency, he said.

“These practices need to be addressed by Congress and the president,” he said. “Action needs to be taken.”

Young said he is concerned about existing trade policies and the impact on the agricultural economy, but added Indiana farmers trust the president and are waiting to see what develops.

He said the U.S. should develop a national economic security strategy that would not be giving away our trade negotiation tactics.

“It should deal with what the U.S. wants from our trade policy,” Young said. “We need a policy that makes sense.”

He believes the U.S. should partner with other countries to apply leverage in trade negotiations with China and other countries.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.