SACRAMENTO -- It's been two days since the Trump administration has faced new criticism as more disturbing images surfaced from a Texas Border Patrol station, this time of detained child migrants left to sleep on rocks.
Now, President Donald Trump is pushing some sweeping proposals, not to fix the country's illegal immigration problem but to alter legal immigration policy.
One change reduces the emphasis on those coming to connect with extended family.
"We actually see this an extension of even family separation, an attempt to create family separation," said Carlos Montes-Ponce with the Sacramento Immigration Coalition.
Ed Emerson, a Democratic strategist in Sacramento, said the president's priorities are out of order.
"Four children have died along the border, separated from their families and died. That's not the United States," he told FOX40.
According to strategists on the other side of the aisle, the new move to switch entry to the United States to something based on merit in education or skill is what the president's base wants to see out of America.
"It certainly, I think, feeds his base," said Republican strategist Tim Rosales. "It sets up an area of contrast between he and the Democrats, the Democrats running for president."
Under the president's plan, crafted by son-in-law Jared Kushner, the notion of, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ... "
would transition to give the country at least 45% more immigrants with skills ready to contribute to America.
There would be requirements to learn English and pass a civics test.
Literacy tests were used to restrict the number of Irish immigrants in the early 1900s.
"Politically it's probably a good move for President Trump. Whether or not the policy ever comes to fruition, that's a different question," Rosales said.
A question that may not really be looking for an answer in practice, but instead when levers are pulled in 2020.
"It'll be an interesting decision for the American people in the all-important swing base in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan," Rosales said.
Emerson believes all voters will have to make a decision sooner because he said this isn't about policy, it's about what America is supposed to be.
"He's literally taking the beacon out of the Statue of Liberty's hand and turning this into some dark place," he said.