There were plenty of things to talk about in President Donald Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday, but one of the most overlooked may have been a switch the president signaled in America’s legal immigration policy — a switch some immigration experts said they were “thrilled” about.
In the speech, the president indicated he favored switching the country to a merit-based immigration system, which would prioritize highly qualified individuals instead of family ties or other criteria. Since Congress, not the president, makes immigration law, Trump’s speech was clearly aimed at getting Republicans in the House and Senate to act on the issue.
“I am going to bring back millions of jobs. Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration,” Trump said in his speech. “The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers and puts great pressure on taxpayers. Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia, and many others have a merit-based immigration system.
“It’s a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” the president continued. “Yet in America we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.”
“According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars a year, Trump continued.
“Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits. It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages and help struggling families, including immigrant families, enter the middle class. And they will do it quickly, and they will be very, very happy, indeed.
“I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security and to restore respect for our laws.”
In case you missed it, you can see the full speech here, but the comments in question begin just after the 30-minute mark:
Conservative immigration reform advocates were ecstatic at Trump’s stand for immigration reform.
“We were thrilled to hear the president once again place struggling American workers at center stage in the rationale for strong immigration enforcement,” Roy Beck, president of immigration reform group NumbersUSA, said in a statement.
“The best news for workers was the president’s insistence that legal immigration must be reformed so it will stop depressing wages.”
Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform had similar praise.
“The president also discussed his vision of legal immigration policy that creates a better balance between nuclear family-based immigration and merit-based immigration,” Stein said in a statement.
“Clearly, President Trump’s north star is his unwavering commitment to the safety of the American people, the security of the American job market, and the renewed respect for the rule of law.”
It’s got these reform advocates cheering. And if Congress acts, it’s going to have Americans cheering, too.
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