Donald Trump’s campaign is out with a statement insisting he hasn’t changed his position on the H-1B visa issue at all. It says he remains “committed to eliminating rampant, widespread abuse” in the program.
That follows Thursday’s Fox News debate, when Trump declared he was “changing” his position on granting visas to high-tech foreign workers, because he has concluded “we absolutely have to have” such imported labor in Silicon Valley.
Moderator Megyn Kelly’s question to Trump on Thursday night was: “Mr. Trump, your campaign website to this day argues that more visas for highly skilled workers would, quote, ‘decimate American workers’. However, at the CNBC debate, you spoke enthusiastically in favor of these visas. So, which is it?”
I’m changing. I’m changing. We need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can’t do it, we’ll get them in. But, and we do need in Silicon Valley, we absolutely have to have.
So, we do need highly skilled, and one of the biggest problems we have is people go to the best colleges. They’ll go to Harvard, they’ll go to Stanford, they’ll go to Wharton, as soon as they’re finished they’ll get shoved out. They want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately, they’re not able to stay here. For that purpose, we absolutely have to be able to keep the brain power in this country.
“So you’re abandoning the position on your website?” Kelly asked.
“I’m changing it, and I’m softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country,” Trump confirmed.
Here is the relevant passage from Trump’s website – which, in its current iteration, specifies “women and minorities” as the group that would be “decimated” by a dramatic increase in H-1B visas:
Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs. We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program’s lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.
Requirement to hire American workers first. Too many visas, like the H-1B, have no such requirement. In the year 2015, with 92 million Americans outside the workforce and incomes collapsing, we need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed. Petitions for workers should be mailed to the unemployment office, not USCIS.
During the CNBC debate in October, moderator Becky Quick told Trump he had been “very critical of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who has wanted to increase the number of these H1Bs.”
I was not at all critical of him. I was not at all. In fact, frankly, he’s complaining about the fact that we’re losing some of the most talented people. They go to Harvard. They go to Yale. They go to Princeton. They come from another country and they’re immediately sent out.
I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley.
Quick returned to the point, in an exchange that led Trump critics to mock him for not reading his own website.
“You’ve been — you have been — you had talked a little bit about Marco Rubio. I think you called him Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator because he was in favor of the H1B,” said Quick. As can be seen above, this is indeed a verbatim quote from Trump’s website.
“I never said that. I never said that,” Trump responded.
At the time, Trump supporters argued there is a distinction between what a candidate says personally, and the text contained on his website, while his critics maintained the candidate is responsible for the positions staked out by his campaign in all media. Trump’s immigration plan, as written on the website, was developed in consultation with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has endorsed him for President, and is highly critical of the H-1B visa program.
On Friday morning, Trump released the following statement to clarify his position on H-1B visas:
Megyn Kelly asked about highly-skilled immigration. The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.