Editor’s Note: This column was co-written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
President Trump got big applause last week during a speech in Ohio when he called for fixing our immigration system. Instead of a “terrible system where anybody comes in,” the president advocated for a “merit-based system, one that protects our workers” and “our economy.”
According to polls, most Americans agree with him, but our outdated immigration laws do the opposite.
The basic principles of those laws haven’t been changed in over half a century, making them divorced from the needs of our economy, while also depressing working-class wages. That’s why we’ve introduced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, which updates our immigration laws to attract more ultra-high-skilled workers — and give working-class families the raise they deserve.
The ideal immigration system should have three objectives. First, attract the young and highly skilled, since they provide the biggest boost to our economy. Second, seek out people who can integrate into American society most effectively. Third, give priority to uniting immediate families, since it’s better to give precious green cards to parents and their minor children rather than to fill out someone’s family tree with grown siblings and cousins.
Our current immigration system achieves none of these goals. Each year, the United States accepts around 1 million immigrants as legal permanent residents, which is twice our historical average. That’s like adding the population of Montana every year, but only one out of fifteen immigrate for employment reasons. The majority come here on family-based visas, without regard to their skills or our needs.
As a result, half of all immigrant households receive benefits from our social welfare system.
That’s not good for any American, but it has especially steep costs for people who work with their hands and on their feet for a living. Wages for Americans with only…