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Editorial: Follow Canada's immigration model

A recent Reuters story told of people from Africa and the Middle East showing up in Emerson, Man., seeking asylum and "fleeing U.S. President Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigrants."

But the bigger story about Canada and immigration isn't unfolding in a few border towns. It's happening throughout the country. It's especially happening in Manitoba, and it involves Canadians by the tens of thousands, facts that may interest North Dakotans and Minnesotans.

It's the story of Canada's "merit-based" immigration system. That's the system whose robust success Trump referred to Tuesday in his first address to Congress.

Americans should take note. Because the president is right: Canada's system strikes a better balance on immigration, one that generates more of the benefits and fewer of the drawbacks.

As a result, it's also much more popular among Canadians than our American system is here at home.

If Congress wants to reform the American system in a bipartisan way, it should study Canada's example. And Manitoba—the prairie province where immigration has sparked economic growth and a better quality of life—would be a great place to start.

In Canada, prospective immigrants for decades have been "assigned points based on nine criteria, such as education, age, fluency in English or French, and whether or not their skills fit Canada's economic needs," wrote Jonathan Tepperman, managing editor of the journal Foreign Affairs, in a Wall Street Journal column last fall.

"Those who scored above a certain number got in, period. Nothing else mattered."

This policy of "picking most immigrants based on their ability to make material contributions" benefits the whole country, Tepperman wrote.

For example, Canadian immigrants' "employment rate is among the highest in the developed world, and without them, Canada's workforce would be shrinking and aging."

That's especially obvious in Manitoba, a province that faces the same rural depopulation pressures that have emptied much of America's Great Plains.

But "between 2001 and 2011, Manitoba's employed workforce expanded by 62,000 people," economics blogger David Campbell writes.

"Forty-six thousand of the workers were recent immigrants."

Winkler, Man., sits a few miles north of Walhalla, N.D., and lacks anything resembling western North Dakota's oil boom. But Winkler's population grew from 6,700 in 2001 to some 11,000 today—growth fueled by targeted immigration that brings in selected workers for Winkler's bustling farm and manufacturing economies.

Today, Canada "has one of the highest immigration rates in the world," Tepperman wrote in his Wall Street Journal column.

"Yet most Canadians couldn't be happier about it. Polls have shown that two-thirds of them feel that immigration is one of Canada's key strengths, and the same proportion favors keeping it at its current level — or even increasing it."

In short, Canada's system works, in contrast to America's, which is broken. Trump's smart to spotlight and vow to emulate our neighbor to the North's success.