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Trump Proposes Merit-based Immigration System During Address to Congress

Immigration Documents

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, President Donald Trump spoke during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C. During the speech, Trump used a portion to address immigration issues. He repeated his calls for a border wall, warnings about criminals crossing the border, and shared emotional stories of Americans killed by illegal immigrants.

But he then said something no one was expecting; he made a call for returning American immigration policy to a merit-based collection process. This is something that has been unseen in the United States for more than 50 years.

He made an economic and class-based argument for this policy stating, “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 will help struggling families – including immigrant families – enter the middle class.”   

For background, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson and Senator Ted Kennedy successfully worked to radically change our immigration policy from a merit-based, discretionary system to one that favored immigrants with some form of family ties to people already living in the United States. Supporters of the plan argued this was a more compassionate policy, while critics called it a crude attempt to create a new voting block for Democrats.

President Trump is now making a play to resurrect the original merit-based system. Economically, there is evidence that America’s remaining merit-based immigration rules, especially the H-1B visa program, is a strong reason for U.S. technological greatness. Whether a broader merit-based immigration program that will include professions and skills rather than just technology will give us similar benefits is still open for debate. On the other hand, many economists have warned that ceasing the current steady flow of low-skilled and low-cost immigrant workers will stifle almost all flow of businesses in different ways. No matter the stance, the change will be an economic gambit.

Berardi Immigration law will continue to monitor U.S. immigration news closely and will continue to provide our clients with the most up-to-date and accurate information. If you have questions on your U.S. immigration status or are interested in immigrating to the U.S., please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!