Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump inexplicably changed his position on the H-1B visa program in Thursday’s Fox News debate, saying Silicon Valley actually does need to import tech workers for jobs instead of hiring Americans.
“We need highly skilled people in this country,” Trump told Megyn Kelly in the debate, when she questioned him about statements he’s made that contradict the policy of reducing access to the visas outlined on his website. “I changed my mind,” he added.
The reversal comes on the heels of a huge endorsement from Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who is leading the pro-worker immigration movement that propelled Trump to the top of the polls. Trump had adopted many of Sessions’ positions on immigration, including a reform of the H-1B visa program.
“We need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed,” his website states, advocating for a reform of the program that favors American workers. But when Kelly reminded him of the position on his website, Trump doubled down, saying he’s “softening” his position on the visa programs.Disney, Southern California Edison and other companies have been in the spotlight recently after laying off scores or even hundreds of workers and in some cases forcing them to train their foreign replacements on H-1B visas. At the same time, big businesses continue to argue there is a shortage of high-skilled tech workers and are demanding an increased supply.
In his reversal, Trump signaled he now believes their argument, saying Silicon Valley needs “high-skilled” workers, and the country needs to bring in more high-skilled workers.
Update: The Trump campaign issued this statement after his comments in Thursday’s debate:
“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.”
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