President Donald Trump reaffirmed his commitment to putting Americans first when it comes to immigration reform Tuesday in his address to a joint session of Congress, saying any reform had to begin with that basic principal.
“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,” he said. “If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.”
His words put a damper on dramatic media reports hours ahead of his address that he is open to granting amnesty to wide swaths of illegal immigrants. The New York Times interpreted remarks Trump made a few hours ahead of the address to reporters as a “dramatic shift” away from a tough immigration stance and toward compromise that could include amnesty.
Immigration hawks perhaps put on edge by reports of the conversation were reassured by his remarks stressing protections for American workers and a merit-based legal immigration system, as well as a reiteration of his plan to build a wall and tough words on illegal immigrant crime. Of course, time will tell whether or not he is truly considering some kind of amnesty.
“Some strong words from Pres. on immigration reform,” Roy Beck with Numbers USA, a group that favors moderated immigration levels, tweeted. “No mention of DACA. Media was in frenzy beforehand about pivot to amnesty.”
Mark Krikorian, executive director of another group calling for moderation, the Center for Immigration Studies, retweeted Beck and added his own take in which he quoted Trump: “‘My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.’ Post-Americans don’t get how that resonates.”
Trump did call for reforms of the legal immigration system centered on reducing the taxpayer burden of immigration on Americans, and on moving the system away from a family-based system and toward a merit-based system in which immigrants must prove they are able to care for themselves upon arrival without much government help.
“I am going to bring back millions of jobs,” Trump said. “Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.”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 is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. 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 America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.”
“Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class.”
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