For five weeks, the new Administration's enforcement actions have kept immigration constantly in the news. But with barely a nod to why this might be good for American workers.
And the White House bully pulpit has been quiet in terms of repeating Donald Trump's campaign promises to rescue vulnerable American workers from the harm of a reckless legal immigration system.
That changed tonight with Pres. Trump's address to a joint session of Congress.
Here's the statement I put out to the news media:
We were thrilled to hear the President once again place struggling American workers at center stage in the rationale for strong immigration enforcement.
"The best news for workers was the President's insistence that legal immigration must be reformed so it will stop depressing wages.
"The President's promise that immigration policies must be merit-based and guided by the principle of improving jobs and wages for Americans provides the tacit endorsement for passing Sen. Tom Cotton's RAISE Act (S. 354), which would eliminate visa categories not based on merit that bring in hundreds of thousands a year."
I have been worrying that Mr. Trump is going to abandon his constant campaign promise to make immigration policy serve the interests of the American worker?
But then deep in his speech to Congress, he said:
Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers."
I'm not sure that sentiment has been expressed by a President in the Capitol at any time over the last 90 years -- if ever. Oh, some Presidents have given a little bit of lip service at times to the fact that illegal immigration can be unfair to American workers. But this was ground-breaking to say legal immigration is a threat to workers.
So, I want to savor that special moment for a minute here. I've been quoted fairly widely in news media the last week or so criticizing the President both for some things he has done and for things he hasn't done. His speech tonight put him back on the immigration policy track that I think was the one that brought him to the White House.
Pres. Trump also tied reckless immigration policies to unfairness to taxpayers as he spoke against what is often called "importing poverty":
Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others have a merit-based immigration system. 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, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.
"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.
"I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation's security, and to restore respect for our laws.
"If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades."
We will need to watch carefully to ensure that the Trump people don't come up with a plan that just ensures that immigrants can pay their own way. There still are far more people who can do that than would be good for the American worker.
A merit-based system alone won't solve our problems, either. That could just shift the unfairness from less-skilled American workers to higher-skilled American workers.
In the end, any reform that does not dramatically reduce annual legal immigration numbers cannot achieve the lofty goals Mr. Trump set out for improving jobs and wages for Americans.
The 8 million of us who are connected to NumbersUSA must mobilize to push Congress to pass Sen. Cotton's RAISE Act which would go a long way toward reforming our legal immigration system according to the principles set out last night by Pres. Trump.
He also made it much clearer why it is so important to enforce immigration laws:
By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we 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.
"For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.
"As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.
"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?
"Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States."
Those are mighty fine principles. This is a good start, Mr. President. We stand ready to help you turn those words into laws.
ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Mar 14th 2017 @ 11:25pm EDT