Back in June, Trump put on his typical spectacle of hollow exclamations and oscillating hand movements at a speech in Iowa, where he spoke about the border wall (again) and America's desperate need for immigration reform.
As he carried on, it seemed like business as usual, until he threw a curve ball that no one expected - a shout-out to Canada and its leader Justin Trudeau.
It's a little off-character for him, or any American for that matter, to give praise to the northern nation. It's become a thing for Americans, especially conservatives, to poke fun at Canada for its stereotypical quirkiness and whimsical nature. But apparently, Trump was inspired by Canada, giving particular mention to the country's immigration system.
"Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others, have a merit-based immigration system," stated Trump. "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."
He's right to admire Canada's approach to immigration. The country has always relied on immigrants to grow its economy and stall its aging population, and its merit-based system ensures that only the best highly-skilled workers are chosen for that. In return for their service, immigrants are offered permanent immigration in a land brimming with Western world opportunity.
Such system has made Canada the world's leading nation for successful immigrants, with one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world (three times more than the U.S.) and an 82 per cent approval rate by its citizens despite an increase in terrorism. For Canadians, it's not just about strengthening the economy - multiculturalism is a significant part of their culture, and Canada's immigration system contributes positively to that.
Now, Trump is trying to harness that potential. He put forth a proposal for the RAISE Act, which mimics Canada's merit-based immigration system.
"The RAISE Act will reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars," he said at a White House conference last week.
But's probably not going to work. Why? Because it seems that all America has been doing lately is shutting everyone out, instead of welcoming them in. The current system in the United States involves the issuing of green cards, which offers a form of permanent residency status. But they only take in a million newcomers each year (that's only a third of Canada's intake), and 67 per cent of individuals already reside in the country.
According to a new report by the National Immigration Forum and the National Foundation for American Policy, the RAISE Act won't work because Trump is implementing the Canada-like system for a much different purpose than what Canada uses it for. Though the RAISE Act aims to prioritize skilled immigrants, it would not increase the number of skilled immigrants to the country, since it would only transfer the 140,000 green cards used by employers to people who accumulate the most points.
Ultimately, Trump wants to cut legal immigration by 50 per cent in the next ten years by removing family- and employment-based categories. But as report author Stuart Anderson explains, the purpose of a merit system is "to attract more immigration, not reduce it." In Canada's case, a part of what makes its immigration system appealing is the fact that it continues to sponsor immigrants from outside the point system.
It will also be a difficult undertaking for the United States to implement a merit-based immigration system considering the split of power between legislative and executive branches. In Canada, there is a unilateral authority that can decide changes to immigration policy, so if there were any problems, they could be tended to quickly.
So, while it may be flattering that Trump looked to Canada for answers, he's got a long way to go before he can actually follow in its footsteps.