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Trump calls for 'merit-based' immigration system in address to Congress

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night called for the United States to adopt a "merit-based system" for immigration, saying "it will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages and help struggling families."

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."

Under such a system, immigrants are selected based on their merit and skills.

"It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially," Trump said. "Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon."

"According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year," the president said.

Trump reportedly showed interest in Canada's merit-based immigration system while meeting earlier this month with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

On Tuesday night, Trump said, "Switching away from [America's] 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 introduced the idea of a merit-based immigration system after invoking the memory and words of President Abraham Lincoln, saying, "Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words."

"I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

"I am going to bring back millions of jobs," Trump vowed. "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 The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers and puts great pressure on taxpayers."

Trump also said, "I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation's security and to restore respect for our 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," the president said.

Technology companies and others have expressed concern that a restrictive immigration policy could hamper their ability to hire desirable candidates for jobs.