President Donald Trump called for major changes in American immigration policy, including adoption of a “merit-based” system to reduce admissions of low-skilled immigrant workers, and received the backing of a least one major U.S. labor union.
“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,” he said in a speech to a joint session of Congress. “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.”
Trump said the current open-door policy “costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year” as a result of increased use of government services by poor immigrants, and harms American workers’ wages.
“The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers” he said.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union, endorsed Trump’s call for major changes. “This was the first time the president has talked about legal immigration being used to drive down [domestic workers’] wages. We’ve been saying that for a long time,” Trumka said.
He added that Trump’s speech was overall a “mixed bag” but praised the president for using his office to convince companies to stay in the U.S. instead of moving manufacturing overseas to take advantage of cheap labor. The effort was worthwhile even if it only saved one job, he said.
Trump’s plan to reduce importation of millions of low-skilled foreign workers is likely to meet stiff resistance from giant corporations and left-wing Democrats. Wall Street investors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have long been staunch supporters of open borders that permit a flood of cheap labor into the country. And Democrat Party operatives have been counting on incorporating millions of newly naturalized immigrant voters into their election strategies.
Trump will even run into resistance to immigration policy changes from some Republican politicians, many of whom, with backing from big business, want to legalize millions of illegal aliens already in the country by granting amnesty.
Trump said a new immigration policy that includes enforcement of laws against illegal immigration will benefit all Americans and help raise Americans’ wages. “By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone,” he said, adding “we want all Americans to succeed –- but that can’t happen” when immigration laws are ignored.
So far, Trump has called for building a security barrier along the border with Mexico, cutting off federal grants to cities and counties that give sanctuary to illegal aliens and ordering new controls on admissions from terror-exporting Middle East countries. But it is not yet clear whether a Republican Congress will go along with additional changes in immigration policy.