Trump softens stand on immigration, favours merit-based system

Washington: US President Donald Trump today called for adopting a merit-based immigration system that could benefit high-tech professionals from countries like India, modifying his hard-line campaign rhetoric with a promise to revive the ‘American spirit’.

Trump, during his first address to Congress, noted that “nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others have a merit-based immigration system”.

He said that such a system will save countless dollars and raise workers’ wages.
Trump introduced the idea of a merit-based immigration system after invoking the memory and words of late president Abraham Lincoln, saying, “Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words.”

“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,” Trump said in a State of the Union-style address that lasted for an hour.

Trump, 70, said he is going to bring back millions of jobs.

“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 The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers,” he said.

Trump said he believes that real and positive immigration reform is possible as long as it focuses on the goals to improve jobs and wages for Americans to strengthen the country’s security and to restore respect for 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,” he said.

“Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party. It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history,” he said in his prime-time speech which was devoid of attacks on Democratic opponents and media organisations.
Indian IT professionals account for the largest number of foreign nationals coming to the US on H-1B visas.

Indians form a significantly large number of foreign workers coming to the US as scientists, doctors, engineers and other highly-skilled professionals.

During his presidential campaign, Trump had promised to increase oversight of our H-1B and L-1 visa programmes that are used widely by Indian tech companies.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American firms to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.

Trump during his campaign promised measures like cracking down on undocumented immigrants, restricting travel to the US to stop immigrants entering the country, drawing a sharp reaction from fellow lawmakers and countrymen.

In his address, Trump said that he has inherited a very bad economy.

“As I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited. Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labour force. Over 43 million people are now living in poverty. And over 43 million Americans are on food stamps,” he said.

“We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years. In the last eight years, the past administration has put on more new debt than nearly all of the other presidents combined,” he said.

America, he said has lost more than one-fourth of its manufacturing jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was approved, and lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

“Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly USD 800 billion. And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters,” he added.

“But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy, making it easier for companies to do business in the United States and much, much harder for companies to leave our country,” Trump said.

Right now, the President said American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

“My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone,” he said.

“At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class. We must create a level playing field for American companies and our workers. Have to do it. Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes, but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them nothing or almost nothing,” he said.

Trump said that he is for free, but fair trade.

“I believe strongly in free trade, but it also has to be fair trade. It’s been a long time since we had fair trade,” Trump said in his maiden address to the joint session of the US Congress.

Promising his countrymen economic prosperity, internal security and a nation which believes in the principles of peace through strength, Trump said America is willing to find new friends to forge new partnerships.

“We know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more. We must learn from the mistakes of the past – we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world,” Trump said.

“The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding. America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align,” said the US President.

In his address, Trump rued that while the United States has spent trillions of dollars overseas, the infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

“We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by Executive Branch Officials – and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government,” Trump said.

Trump also called on the Republican-controlled Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America, he said.

“The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do,” he asserted.

Noting that to keep America safe one must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and – if they must – to fight and win, Trump said he is sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defence sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defence spending in American history.

“My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.

Our veterans have delivered for this nation – and now we must deliver for them,” he said.