Immigration in Trump's Quasi-SOTU

There were two important points related to immigration in last night's speech. The first is that the media hype about Trump possibly floating an amnesty plan was nonsense. It was driven by comments from the president himself to reporters earlier in the day that he’d be open to a deal that offered a non-citizenship amnesty to non-violent illegal aliens and a regular citizenship amnesty for the DACAs (illegals who came before age 16 whom Obama lawlessly amnestied). I don't think that was planned; he’s seemed to embrace a Jeb-like immigration plan in past off-the-cuff comments, only to back away when speaking formally, and that seems to be what happened. Taking this seriously was wishful thinking by the media and paranoia by immigration hawks (including myself) – though the paranoia, or better, eternal vigilance, is always necessary.

The more important takeaway was his emphasis on the jobs impact of immigration, and legal immigration specifically. Yes, he highlighted the national security and public safety aspects of the issue, recognizing Jamiel Shaw and others who've lost loved ones to illegal-alien criminals apprehended then released by the authorities. But he also said "By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone."

But going beyond illegal immigration, he also 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 The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers." He called for a "merit-based" system more like that of Canada or Australia, one that emphasizes skills and education rather than family connections. This seemed to be an implicit endorsement of at least the general approach that Tom Cotton and David Perdue have taken in their RAISE Act to prune back family immigration rights to spouses and minor children of Americans and legal residents.

It was important, both for policy and politics, that he included "to improve jobs and wages for Americans" in the goals of immigration reform, along with "to strengthen our nation's security, and to restore respect for our laws." Most illegal aliens, let alone legal immigrants, aren't bad hombres, but the mass admission of even good hombres is bad for American workers. To flesh out that policy, it would help to see some emphasis on worksite enforcement and E-Verify, to go along with arresting and deporting criminals.