Trump calls for switching to ‘merit-based immigration system’, but mum on H-1B

In the State of the Union address, his call to improve “jobs and wages for Americans” is an apparent reference to the visa program.

President Donald J. Trump addressing the Joint Session of Congress

In his first-ever State of the Union address, President Donald Trump called for a merit-based immigration system, switching away from what he called “this current system of lower-skilled immigration.”

Citing the immigration policies of countries such as Canada and Australia, the president said those nations have “a merit-based immigration system,” whose “basic principle” is “that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.”

Quoting the National Academy of Sciences, Trump said “our current immigration system costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars a year” — “straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.” Adopting “a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits,” he said.

“It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families, including immigrant families enter the middle class,” he said. “And they will do it quickly, and they will be very, very happy indeed.”

Clearly, Trump’s target here is reducing family-based immigration — which allows relatives of US citizens to immigrate to the country — as well as immigration through asylums and the Diversity Visa Program, also known as green card lottery.


Will Donald Trump clamp down on H-1B visas? (November 12, 2016)
Trump wants H-1B workers out, but foreign students on visas in (August 19, 2015)
Trump rails against H-1B visas in new immigration plan (August 17, 2015)
Interestingly, the president did not mention the H-1B visa program, which brings highly skilled workers to the United States. However, it is apparent that Trump was referring to H-1B when called for improving “jobs and wages for Americans” in the context of immigration.

During the campaign, Trump had hit out against the H-1B visa program, saying that it depresses wages of American workers. After a primary debate on March 3, Trump said he would “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program” without any exceptions.

Trump has also surrounded himself with some of the most vocal critics of the H-1B visa program, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House advisor Steve Bannon.

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