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Ferenstein: Why Would Trump Scrap a Great Merit-Based Immigration Program?

The Trump Administration is reportedly planning to scrap a popular immigration policy for startup entrepreneurs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Back in 2014, the idea of special status for immigrants who had already secured venture capital and plans to create American jobs represented the perfect model for how Republicans wanted to reshape the immigration system: ensure that newcomers were contributing to the economy.

A plan to end that seems at odds with Trump’s own call for creating 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,” he recently said.

It’s hard to think of a more merit-based program than the International Entrepreneurship Rule. The rule essentially places immigrants on parole, allowing them to work in America if they’ve raised money and can demonstrate the ability to create jobs (such as raising $250,000 from established venture capitalists).

One of the most valuable companies on Earth, Google, was co-founded by an immigrant born in the Soviet Union. America has a long, proud history of welcoming brilliant minds, even from countries that are sworn enemies of the nation.

And it’s worked out stupendously for the economy. Over 50% of billion-dollar startups are founded by immigrants, according to the National Foundation For American Policy.

I understand that some critics of the immigration system have concerns about a flood of newcomers crowding out American jobs. However, this special rule would probably only end up applying to a few thousand immigrants, who would end up creating jobs Americans never even knew could exist.

America has spent untold billions creating the most appealing technology sector in the world, but when someone comes along from another country with cash-in-hand and promises of American jobs, the Trump administration wants to make immigration difficult for them? It’s a bizarrely bad policy move.

I get that Trump promised an “America first” immigration strategy, but immigrant entrepreneurs have been building the American economy since its founding. Not everything is bad with our immigration system.

A smart leader keeps what is good, even during the process of changing things.

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