A triumphant but low-key President Trump took to center stage Tuesday night at the U.S. Capitol to deliver his third State of the Union address.
The president had recently returned from maligned Iowa where, in the Republican caucus, he smothered his two GOP challengers, former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld. Trump received 97% of the vote. And with his Senate acquittal a forgone conclusion, President Trump, in buoyant spirits, touted the economy, low unemployment rates and his successful U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
The policy that Trump can’t get right, and which could be his strongest hand, is immigration. During his address, Trump stayed on safe ground regarding his immigration achievements and future hopes. The president praised Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and slammed sanctuary cities. He pushed for a new law that would ban providing medical benefits to illegal aliens.
But imagine if Trump had deviated from safe terrain and instead relied on the last 55 years of immigration history and its consequences to make his case for sensible legal immigration reductions, and for stricter border and interior enforcement.
Beginning in 1965, Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush signed into law three major immigration acts: the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and the Immigration Act of 1990.
The collective and inarguable results of those three laws have been significant increases in immigration that’s contributed to U.S. population growth, and a huge bump in the numbers of employment-based temporary visas issued that have displaced American workers. Illegal immigration also has spiked, reaching a total of anywhere from 11 to 22 million. Yale University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers found evidence that 22 million is accurate, and discredited the conservative 11 million.
A Pew Research analysis reported that the U.S., despite repeated allegations of being anti-immigrant, has more immigrants than any other country in the world. More than 44 million U.S. residents were born abroad, slightly fewer than 1 in 7 among the overall population.
Since 1965, the number of immigrants in the U.S. has quadrupled. Assuming the status quo remains unchanged, the Census Bureau projects that by 2065 immigrants and their children will represent 88 percent of U.S. population growth when the population will exceed 400 million.
As for immigration’s effect on jobs, the more than 1 million immigrants that enter the U.S. annually receive lifetime-valid employment authorization documents. Piling on, the Immigration Act of 1990 created the U.S. tech workers’ biggest nightmare, the H-1B visa, and the shameful citizenship for sale visa, the EB-5. Immigration, especially in such high numbers, means looser labor markets, the exact opposite of what U.S. workers deserve.
Finally, for reasons known only to Trump, he again studiously avoided mention of E-Verify, the federal program that helps ensure that only citizens and legally present immigrants can hold U.S. jobs.
The president’s moment to make a strong, fact-based immigration reduction argument in his SOTU address has passed, but it’s not necessarily gone forever. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign should reinforce the lower immigration levels that Americans want.