Trump used Trudeau visit to do some immigration homework

Trudeau: Create free open societies that keep our citizens safe

In President Donald Trump's first face-to-face meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Washington, a senior source inside the discussions told CNBC that Trump asked many questions about Canada's immigration system, which is based on points.

Canada assesses immigrants on six selection factors, including fluency, education, experience and age, and then assigns a point value for each variable.

At the meeting Monday, Trump asked questions about the point system's effectiveness and implementation, according to the source, who requested anonymity because the information is not yet public.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Just last week, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling blocking Trump's executive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries. People with valid U.S. green cards and visas were also affected.

In the meantime, the executive order continues to suspend a global refugee program that accepted Syrian asylum seekers, among others, into the U.S.

The order made many people "very frightened," said Deborah Notkin, a senior partner at immigration law firm Barst Mukamal & Kleiner. "This year, something has happened that I've never seen before. A number of employers say they want to go ahead [to help the employee stay in the U.S.] but the person doesn't want to stay here. They don't want to commit to an H-1B visa; and they're not people from the Middle East either."

In contrast, Canada has accepted close to 40,000 Syrian refugees over the past 18 months and offered temporary residence to those who were left stranded by Trump's recent travel ban.

The two leaders' glaring differences in approach stayed largely muted during their brief visit Monday.

Trump affirmed his belief that the U.S. "cannot let the wrong people in," while Trudeau avoided a possible confrontation, saying that he will not "lecture" Trump on his controversial policies.

The president has suggested that he might introduce another executive order to restrict travel while the original works its way through the courts. By questioning the Trudeau administration about Canada's points system, Trump seems to be feeling out other options.

"I do think the points system works, and it's not going to be 100 percent foolproof," said David Crawford, managing partner at global immigration law firm Fragomen in Toronto. "You have to make sure that new immigrants succeed. If they have the skills, language to get by in the country then their chances of succeeding increases and everybody wins."

Still, the U.S. and Canada differ in many ways; more than 320 million people live in the United States and only 35 million reside in Canada. That means Canada probably needs immigration more than the U.S. does.

"I'm against the points system," argues Notkin. "To change our system that way would not address our needs. We are STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) hungry and if we create this anti-immigrant atmosphere we're going to lose these people."

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