“I’m changing. I’m changing.”
That’s what Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump told Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly at a debate in early March about his position on the H-1B visa, or the non-immigrant visa that grants entry into the United States to foreigners who bring specialized skills to various industries, often to high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley.
Trump wasn’t kidding about “changing”; he’s shifted his position on the issue several times since he began his campaign last year, often abruptly and dramatically. Even the writers at The Washington Post seem mystified, recently awarding Trump an “Upside-Down Pinocchio” on the scale the paper uses to rate the veracity or falsity of certain claims, and saying, “We don’t know exactly what to make of his stance — and it’s unclear if Trump even knows himself. However, what we unequivocally can say is that Trump deserves a handful of Upside-Down Pinocchios for his flip-floppery.”
His campaign website lays out two major policy changes when dealing with H-1B visas: (1) raising the prevailing wages paid to recipients, and (2) requiring that employers hire Americans before they recruit foreign talent. Both ideas are designed to accomplish the same goal — to hire more workers within our borders — as Trump’s website states raising the salary paid to H-1B’s “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.”
Yet in the past year, Trump, also a well-known business magnate who has actually used H-1B workers as an employer, has both softened his position and doubled down on it.
Softening his stance
He seemed to distance himself from his official platform, and instead voiced support for the program at an CNBC October debate, saying, “As far as the visas are concerned, if we need people, it’s fine. They have to come into this country legally.” Similarly, at a subsequent Fox News debate, he seemed to maintain the stance that H-1B recipients should be able to come into the country to fill jobs if necessary. When questioned by Megyn Kelly about the disparity between his previous position and this newly softened approach, he explained by saying, “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.”
Then… an abrupt shift
Then, in an about face, on the same night as the Fox debate, he released a statement on his website expressing opposition to the program. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions,” he said.
The reason for the abrupt swing — and the much harsher language — is unclear, though the statement hearkened back to his previous comments and stated position on H-1B’s.
Most recent comments on H-1B’s
Most recently, he spoke again about the issue at a CNN debate held on March 10. There, he gave perhaps his harshest rebuke of the program, and even censured himself for using it in business, possibly answering criticism by rival Ted Cruz and former presidential contender Marco Rubio for hiring H-1B visa workers at his country club resorts. Trump said, “I know the H-1B very well. And it’s something that I, frankly, use, and I shouldn’t be allowed to use it. We shouldn’t have it. Very, very bad for workers.”
Whether Trump will maintain that perspective remains unclear as his campaign rolls on. And the electorate may not again get the chance to hear him speak about it in a Republican debate. The morning after the twelfth such forum, Trump said, “I think we’ve had enough debates… I don’t think any of the candidates want them, at this point.” It’s worth noting if Trump does become the Republican nominee, he’ll be obliged to participate in debates leading up to the general election, and may again be asked about H-1B visas.
Contact KPPB Law For Professional Immigration Law Assistance!
In the meantime, interested applicants are advised to speak with an H-1B visa attorney for more information about the program, which is operated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Current policy, as mandated by Congress, caps the number of recipients at 65,000 each year.
To learn more about U.S. visas and the immigration process, and to take advantage of our array of immigration services, please contact KPPB Law at (703) 594-4040 or contact us online today.