This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky and Daniel Davis was published February 28, 2017 by The Daily Signal.


Border Enforcement, Careful Vetting, and Immigration That Serves the Interests of Americans

In his first address to Congress, Trump reiterated that he intended to keep his promises on immigration, from building a wall to securing our southern border to finally enforcing our immigration laws and removing illegal aliens — “the bad ones” — who endanger our country. As he said, “we’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.”

In fact, he said that dangerous illegal immigrants were being removed as he was speaking to Congress. Enforcement of our immigration laws “will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed — but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.”

Trump issued a direct challenge to his audience of representatives and senators — “To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”

Trump was clearly undeterred by the litigation filed against his executive order temporarily restricting visas to individuals from the seven terrorist havens in the Middle East. Trump made it clear that he would take action to ensure that terrorists do not enter our country, referencing information from the U.S. Justice Department that the majority of terrorist attacks in this country since 9/11 have been carried out by individuals who came here from elsewhere.

The president insisted that we should not allow entry of anyone who we cannot vet, saying that he will not allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists: “It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United State should support this country and love its people and its values.”

Finally, Trump proposed reforming our legal immigration system to protect “our workers” by switching to merit-based immigration, similar to countries such as Australia and Canada. The current system we have “depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.” It should be a basic principle of our immigration system that immigrants are able to “support themselves financially.”

Yet in America, according to Trump, “we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.” Changing to a merit-based immigration system from our “current system of lower-skilled immigration” will “save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class.”

Trump said that any reform of our legal immigration process must meet three principles: improve jobs and wages for Americans, strengthen our nation’s security, and restore respect for our laws.

Trump concluded the portion of his speech on immigration — an extremely contentious issue that has caused great debate in Congress — by saying that if “we are guided by the well-being of American citizens,” then “Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.” He is right.

—Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies