Critics: Trump’s ‘merit-based’ immigration system could hurt companies

President Trump made news late last month when he urged Congress to design a legal immigration system that prioritizes educated foreign workers who can assimilate easily and are qualified for high-skilled jobs.

“It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” the president declared from the dais of the House chamber.

It was the first and last time the president has beseeched lawmakers to consider a “merit-based” immigration system. But the absence of details from the White House has done little to delay critics and proponents from speculating about the economic consequences such a system might bring.

“A merit-based system that is properly designed could be very effective, but I’m concerned that there may be some people around President Trump who really just want to get rid of everything except some high-skilled visas and then make the high-skilled program harder to use,” said Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA and an adviser to several Republicans on immigration.

“The ultimate upshot of that will mean much less immigration, and the immigration that there is would be so difficult to deal with the bureaucracy that even companies that need the workers would find it easier to move to a different country,” she added. “If I’m Microsoft and I can’t find enough engineers here, I’m going to move more of my operations overseas.”

Trump has pointed to Canada and Australia as countries with immigration models that he hopes the U.S. might emulate. Both countries use points to determine who is eligible for entry, giving those with diplomas and plump résumés more points and therefore a greater chance of being selected. The U.S. operated under a similar system until 1952, when the government stopped imposing literacy tests on immigrants.

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