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Trump calls for fundamental change in legal immigration

 (Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Getty Images)
(Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the most specific pledges in President Trump's speech is his call for changing America's system for legal immigration.

The current U.S. system heavily emphasizes family unification and is aimed at allowing strivers from around the world to take advantage of American opportunity. By contrast, Trump advocated a system that would emphasize immigrants who already have skills the economy needs.

"Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others -- have a merit-based immigration system," Trump said.

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

"Switching away from this 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," he said.

Trump's plan, which he first described during a major speech on immigration during his campaign, would represent a fundamental shift in the philosophy of the U.S. immigration system.

Supporters of merit-based immigration argue that the current system pushes down the wages of those at the bottom of the income ladder by increasing the supply of low-skilled workers.

On the other side, supporters of the current system point to the success that immigrants have had in taking advantage of U.S. opportunities.

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