CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that several universities “sold” work permits or access to OPT visas. The permits and visas are provided by the federal government.
President Donald Trump told Fox News TV host Laura Ingraham on Friday his 2021 plans to welcome more foreign graduates will not flood the labor market for U.S. college graduates.
“I have so many companies coming into this country, you’re not going to have to worry about it,” Trump said in the interview, adding, “It is always going to be a shortage … We have so many companies coming in, from Japan … [and] China now is going to start building a lot of things.”
Trump and Ingraham did not find common ground, likely because they were talking about different parts of the immigration problem. Also, neither mentioned Ivanka Trump’s campaign to prod companies to train their own American employees for high-tech jobs.
Ingraham began the exchange by noting American graduates’ salaries have been suppressed by the flood of foreign graduates:
We don’t have a tight labor market. If we had a tight labor market, we would be seeing real increases in wages. I hear that your team is planning on advocating more foreign workers coming in for some of these high-tech companies.
Ingraham rejected business claims of shortages: “We’re seeing a plateauing of wages … There’s a never-ending appetite on the part of corporate America to bring in as much cheap labor as possible to drive down wages.”
“I’m not talking about cheap — I’m talking about brainpower,” Trump responded. “They want to hire smart people. And those people are thrown out of the country — we can’t do that,” he said, referring to foreign graduates of U.S. colleges.
Trump seems to want to help companies import a relatively small number of very clever people, such as Ivy League valedictorians. In contrast, Ingraham is trying to block companies’ effort to cut payrolls by replacing well-paid American professionals with cheap foreign graduates who have just enough skills to get the job done, regardless of quality.
“We have to allow smart people to stay in our country — if you graduate number one in your class at Harvard, [if] you graduate from the Wharton School of Finance,” Trump said. “If we tell smart people to get the hell out, that’s not America first.”
“Yes, that’s a small percentage of what [ccompanies] want,” said Ingraham.
” No, it’s not. It’s a lot,” said Trump.
But business has hired very few valedictorians among the pool of roughly 1.5 million visa workers who now hold jobs sought by American graduates.
In fact, the government does not require U.S companies to hire Americans first, and it does not screen out unskilled foreign workers. The government does not cap foreign hires and does not enforce the loopholed rules which supposedly require foreign workers to be skilled and to be paid market-level wages. Nor does the government even try to curb the large scale nepotism that allows foreign born managers in the United States to import huge numbers of foreign workers who will kick back some of their salaries to their bosses.
For example, the “Optional Practical Training” program was expanded by President G. Bush and President Barack Obama to provide employers with an extra stream of foreign graduates. Foreigners get these OPT work permits by simply enrolling in U.S. colleges, ranging from the elite Stanford University down to the so-called “visa-mill” colleges where many students can speak little English and may do very little study.
DHS posts videos of Indian migrants buying fake documents from ICE's Farmington U. sting operation.
The #OPT Optional Practical Training program is an estb.-run labor-trafficking scheme to sideline American graduates.
It will expand if #S386 becomes law https://t.co/d2sA6FQ3LK
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) January 7, 2020
New 2018 data provided to Breitbart News by the Department of Homeland Security shows that universities provided 215,000 OPT work permits in 2018. This total consisted of 145,586 one-year OPT work permits and 69,650 three-year OPT-STEM work permits in 2018.
In 2017, the matching “Curricular Practical Training” program provided one-year work permits to roughly 100,000 foreign students at U.S. colleges — including colleges that require little or no attendance.
DHS officials have recently changed how they count the OPT and CPT work permits, so the estimated workforce now ranges from 400,000 to roughly 300,000. The older 2017 methodology was used to produce this DHS chart:
Many of these OPT graduates are hired by prestigious U.S. firms, — and by foreign managers in those elite firms — so demoting skilled U.S. graduates in lower-tier jobs, in lower-tier cities, at lower-tier wages.
The other major visa-worker program is the H-1B program. This program keeps roughly 750,000 foreign workers in U.S. college-graduate jobs. These foreign workers will often accept very low wages for these jobs — and will underbid American graduates — partly because they are hoping their employers will sponsor them for the hugely valuable prize of a green card.
Federal agencies have never released a full count of the resident H-1B workforce, but federal data shows that a huge percentage are not valedictorians and that many come from no-name universities in India.
The federal data for 2017, for example, shows that 39 percent of the H-1Bs sought by New York employers were rated as “entry-level” workers, similar to U.S. graduates. Another 26 percent were rated as just “qualified,” and only six percent were rated “competent.” These cheap workers have pushed hundreds of thousands of American professionals out of jobs.
This is the visa worker program which is used by companies to replace many Americans graduates. In 2016, for example, Disney outsourced Americans’ jobs to an Indian company that imported low-wage H-1B workers to do the Americans’ jobs. The American graduates were forced to train the Indians, torpedoing the claims of a shortage of skilled U.S. workers.
Ingraham reminded Trump of the Disney H-1B scandal. “You ran on people training their foreign replacements, that you ran against that. It’s humiliating for an American worker who works for a company for 30 years … to train your replacement,” Ingraham said.
“No, no, that’s different, I would never do that,” said Trump.
“Why shouldn’t we have American graduates of colleges and universities taking those jobs? Ingraham said.
But Trump’s deputies have done little to shrink the H-1B program. In fact, his deputies are defending the OPT program in court. Officials have also blocked a DHS plan to end the “H4 EAD” program that Obama created to persuade temporary H-1B workers to stay in U.S. jobs. The result is that many Americans are still being forced to train their workers, for example, at an AT&T finance office in North Carolina.
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) August 29, 2019
Polls show the public strongly prefers rules which require companies to hire Americans before importing more workers.
A Rasmussen survey shows likely voters by 2:1 want Congress to make companies hire & train US grads & workers instead of importing more foreign workers.
The survey also shows this $/class-based view co-exists w/ much sympathy for illegal migrants. #S386https://t.co/OSLHdG7Sni
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) December 30, 2019
Some of Trump’s supporters say his comments are demoralizing. “I gotta say just put myself through one hell of a three year period,” said one Twitter user, titled “Presto.” “Going to school for IT, working a fulltime meat cutting job all cause of the hope Donald Trump gave me. This clip kinda hurt a bit. This hurt me worse than any hit piece. Give me a spot in the middle class.”
But Trump’s focus on a relatively few valedictorians is a much lesser threat to Americans than the bipartisan push by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to pass his pending S.386 bill.
The bill would offer foreign OPT and H-1B workers a fast-track to a new status, dubbed “Early Adjustment,” once they can persuade — or pay — their employers to sponsor them for green cards. There is no limit on the number of OPT, CPT, or H-1Bs that can be awarded each year, nor any limit on the number of foreign graduates who can be sponsored for green cards by their employers. The lack of limits ensures that Lee’s bill would allow an unlimited flood of foreign college-graduates into the jobs needed by “Presto” and other Americans to get into or to stay in the middle-class.
Notably, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has dismissed employers’ demands for more workers and insists they step up their training programs.
“I love what’s happening because it’s forcing employers to get creative,” Trump told Gary Shapiro, the longtime CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, during a January 7 interview at its annual meeting in Las Vegas. She added:
When I hear employers [who] would come to me and they’d say, ‘We need more skilled workers, we need more skilled workers,’ and then I’d read about them laying off segments of their workforce because they were investing in productivity, and not having spent the time — when they had known three years prior they’d be making that investment and upgrading those systems — not taking the time to take those workers and reskill and then retrain them into their job vacancies, well, I have very little sympathy for that.
Her push seems to be working.
Many U.S. companies are upgrading their training programs, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently showcased a company that uses software to identify and hire ordinary Americans — including truckers — who may have the intellectual skills to succeed in the software business.
Ivanka tells CEOs to train Americans before asking for more immigrants.
She stood up for unemployed, ex-cons, old ppl, blacks, disabled, & non-grads.
But she was diplomatic & pleasant, so many journos simply missed her decent & strong populist message. https://t.co/BDOk1BUhzB
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) January 8, 2020
Before serving as President, Trump was an employer, and he has repeatedly shown his sympathy for fellow employers who complain about supposed labor shortages that would force them to compete for employees by offering higher wages. But he was elected on a pro-American promise — and he has raised Americans’ wages by repeatedly rejecting business demands for more, and yet more, imported workers.
Business leaders sometimes admit that an extra supply of workers helps them force down wages. “If you have ten people for every job, you’re not going to have a drive [up] in wages,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue told Breitbart News on January 9. But “if you have five people for every ten jobs, wages are going to go up.”