Trump and skilled work visas: A moving target

Donald Trump‘s position about immigration isn’t a fixed thing, as he acknowledged this week during Fox’s GOP debate.

Sure, consistency is overrated. But Trump appears to change rapidly when it comes to skilled worker visas, pivots that seem to be coming from his own campaign.

On Thursday night’s debate, Megyn Kelly of Fox News asked Trump about his differing positions on visas for skilled workers.

Trump, the pragmatic negotiator, responded:

I’m changing it, and I’m softening the position because we need to have talented people in this country and if we can’t do it we’ll get them in, and in Silicon Valley we absolutely have to have…we absolutely have to keep the brain power.

But by Friday morning, Trump’s campaign issued a press release that was anything but soft:

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.

People noticed the switchero:

It could be that Trump is not changing his mind by the day, but carefully threading the needle on the skilled visa issue in a specific way — supporting visas that go to brilliant foreign students and exceptionally talented foreigners but drawing the line at H-1B visas. About 65,000 H-1Bs are available via a lottery each year starting on April 1.

Many tech companies use the H-1B program to hire people for jobs, they say, are hard to fill in the U.S. Critics of the program say the visa has long been abused to bring workers — by no means exceptional — to the U.S. who cost less than Americans.

Last summer, Trump also appeared to say two different things about skilled immigration and worker visas, as I wrote then.

Todd Schulte, executive director of, the pro-immigration reform group backed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others:

Has Donald Trump been consistent on immigration? No. The only place we’ve seen consistency are first in his daily “plan” to round up and deport 11 million people and second, that this awful and absurd “plan” — along with his “plans” on high-skilled immigration — never have any actual details or solve real problems.

Above: Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. (AP/Seth Wenig).


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  • hoapres

    No matter who wins the Presidency, American tech workers are going to lose.

    The h1b cap will be raised and tech salaries will continue to drop.

  • Bruno Buckeye

    I am not a Trump supporter, but when applied properly H-1B visas are a good thing. When there is abuse, the companies involved should be prosecuted!