Donald Trump, in his speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, did something that he rarely ever does: He spoke in code.
Trump called for the US to change its immigration system to be "merit-based" — one of those terms that is generally understood, in Washington, to refer to a specific policy. It's political code for changing the composition of people settling in America to favor educated, highly skilled immigrants and reduce family-based immigration, which allows US citizens and permanent residents to bring certain family members to settle permanently in the US.
Trump isn't known for his subtlety, and "phrases that policy wonks understand to be specific, but regular folks think are just rhetoric" really isn't his style. But on Tuesday, he made it clear that he's committed to reducing family-based and low-skilled immigration, according to the "merit-based" playbook.
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What's a lot less clear is whether the Trump administration wants to let in more highly skilled immigrants — or whether it wants to use "merit" as a reason to keep people out, but not to let people in.