Donald Trump has clarified his controversial response to a question posed to him at last night’s Republican debate about immigration and high-skilled guest workers who arrive via H1-B visas.
To be fair to Trump, moderator Megyn Kelly’s question does not reference H1-B visas specifically, although she does use the word visas. Here is Kelly’s question.
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?
Based on his response, however, Trump seems to have taken the question to be about people who come here on student visas and then leave the country when they are done with their education. He gives, basically, the same response – which indicates the same misunderstanding – that he gave at the October 2015 CNBC debate Kelly references.
Here is how Trump responded to Kelly’s question.
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.
Trump’s response scared the literal crap out of a lot of his supporters, many of whom are millennial tech workers who face the prospect of being thrown out of their jobs in favor of foreign workers who will do it for less pay.
Trump later clarified his position on H1-B visas via a press release, saying he’s specifically against importing H1-B workers who frequently come here and take jobs that Americans already hold.
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.
Clarification via press release isn’t enough. He needs to come out and talk on this hard.
My take – we’re going to have legal immigration into America. The question is whether we’re going to import employable immigrants with tangible job skills like we used to or whether we’re going to continue taking immigrants that have no skills, no prospects, and who immediately go on welfare like we are now. We are America, we should be looking for the world’s best and brightest to permanently immigrate here. If they’re educated here first on a student visa, all the better.
We shouldn’t be importing temporary workers via the H1-B program to replace Americans at the jobs they hold, or to fill new positions for less pay than Americans would accept. The position in Trump’s press release is the right one. I don’t even know what the position Trump took at the debate is supposed to represent.