The Atlantic

Is a 'Merit-Based' Immigration System a Good Idea?

The policy could pose challenges to economic prosperity and potentially lead to greater restriction.
Source: Pool / AP

President Trump’s proposal to shift towards a “merit-based” immigration system would upend an approach that has existed for half a century.

Since the 1960s, the United States’ immigration system has largely based entry on family ties, giving preference to those with relatives who are citizens. But in his first address to a joint session of Congress in February, Donald Trump proposed moving away from that policy, focusing instead on an immigration system that would prioritize high-skilled immigrants.

Trump and his advisors have argued that the current levels of immigration harm American workers by lowering wages and preventing assimilation. A merit-based system, restrictionist advocates believe, would help lower immigration rates and ensure that the immigrants who do come are high-skilled workers who never need public assistance. “The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers,” Trump said in his speech to Congress.

While the president has yet to offer details, a merit-based system would pose its own challenges to economic prosperity. Critics believe

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic9 min read
America’s Most Powerful Medical-Debt Collector
Treatment at a military hospital can leave you tens of thousands of dollars in debt—and hounded by the federal government.
The Atlantic4 min read
Halsey, Selena Gomez, and Pop That Acknowledges Mental Struggle
Two new albums, Manic and Rare, air inner turmoil bluntly while staying catchy and controlled.
The Atlantic5 min read
This Is Not the Senate the Framers Imagined
The Constitution originally provided for the selection of senators by state legislatures, but the Seventeenth Amendment changed that, and with it, the Senate itself.