Donald Trump used the March 10 GOP debate to make a dramatic call for a pause in legal immigration after 50 years of continuously rising legal immigration.
The call may shift the nation’s immigration debate away the emotional — but subsidiary — issue of illegal immigration.
“I’d say a minimum of one year, maybe two years,” Trump said during the debate in Miami, Fla.
“It is very significant that a major presidential candidate has called for a pause in legal immigration,” said Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It’s a signal that he’s serious about dealing with high [rates of legal] immigration,” he said.
Legal immigration was sharply cut in 1924 amid political pressure from voters. But it restarted in 1965 during the height of the post-war economic boom when wages were rising, crime was lower and wealth was spread much more evenly.
Currently, the federal government allows 1 million foreign wage-cutting migrants to enter the United States each year, even though 4 million young Americans enter the weak job market each year.
The current population of illegals is roughly 14 million, and rising. But the population of legal immigrants and their children is roughly 45 million, according to a CIS study.
Before Trump’s call for a pause, the 2015 and 2016 immigration debate has been focused on the much smaller issue of illegal immigration, which adds a few hundred thousand workers a year to the current population of roughly 14 million illegal migrants.
Multiple polls show that almost all Americans wants businesses and schools to hire and teach Americans before migrants, and many polls show much stronger support for immigration reductions than support for increased immigration.
But many business groups want high immigration because it provides them with wage-cutting workers and welfare-funded customers. Progressives want also additional immigration, because it provides more government-dependent migrants who will likely vote Democratic after they get citizenship.
Trump made the call for the one or two year pause in legal immigration amid a tangled discussion about H-1B guest-workers. Technically and legally, the 700,000 guest-workers who arrive each year on various visas — H-1Bs, H-2B, H-2As, etc. — are not immigrants, but are low-wage, temporary foreign workers who return home after a few months or several years.
The critical immigration question was asked by Stephen Dinan, a reporter at the Washington Times.
DINAN: Governor Kasich, I want to come to you next. Mr. Trump says that legal immigration is producing quote, “lower wages and higher unemployment for U.S. workers”. He’s calling for a pause on green cards issued to foreign workers. Wouldn’t that help workers in the U.S.? …
DINAN: Mr. Trump, I do want to come to you. Will you also in your answer, address how long you think that pause would be and what that pause would look like.
TRUMP: I will. First of all, I think and I know the H1B very well. And it’s something that I frankly use and I shouldn’t be allowed to use it. We shouldn’t have it. Very, very bad for workers. And second of all, I think it’s very important to say, well, I’m a businessman and I have to do what I have to do …I think for a period of a year to two years we have to look back and we have to see, just to answer the second part of your question, where we are, where we stand, what’s going on.
We have to sort of take a strong, good, hard look and come up with plans that work. And we’re rushing into things, and we’re just — we’re leading with the chin.
We’re leading with people that don’t know what they are doing in terms of our leadership. I’d say a minimum of one year, maybe two years.
Krikorian noted that Trump used the word “pause,” which is a soft, non-confrontational terms. That term is likely to be more acceptable to swing-voting Americans because it does not imply a permanent and shocking permanent halt to immigration, he said. “It’s a benign word,” he said.
The months-long GOP debate has gradually pulled GOP candidates towards a pro-American immigration policy — with politicians promising reduced illegal-immigration, fewer H-1B guest-workers and now a dramatic pause to all immigration.
In contrast, the Democratic debate has forced Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders towards a left-wing platform that includes promises to stop even the current repatriation rate of illegal-immigrant migrant adults and youths that is required by popular laws.