Donald Trump, zingers and all, emerges as sharp H-1B critic

The leading GOP presidential candidate wants a ‘hire Americans first’ rule

Businessman Donald Trump's plan for the H-1B visa is to make it harder and more expensive for tech companies to replace U.S. workers with foreign help.

Trump's immigration plan, released Sunday, includes the ideas and thinking of some of the Senate's strongest H-1B critics. It was immediately endorsed by one senator.

"This is exactly the plan America needs," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), the chair of the Senate's Immigration subcommittee, said in a statement Sunday regarding Trump's overall immigration policy proposal. "Not only would the plan outlined in this paper work, but more quickly than many realize."

The key things Trump is proposing for the H-1B visa include, first, an increase in the prevailing wage, making it more expensive to use H-1B workers. Many visa holders are paid the lowest prevailing wage level set for entry-level positions. Trump doesn't spell out his specific action plan, but some have argued for eliminating lower prevailing-wage levels altogether.

"Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs 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," wrote Trump.

Second, Trump wants a requirement that companies hire U.S. workers first. Critics says without this requirement, visa workers can be used to replace U.S. workers. "We need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed," wrote Trump.

Trump said his proposals will also "improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program."

Trump's immigration policy paper is far from dry reading. He calls Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), "Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator," because of Rubio's support of the I-Squared bill.

The I-Squared bill would raise the base H-1B visa cap from its current 65,000 to 195,000, a move the IEEE-USA has said will help destroy the U.S. tech workforce. Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, is a principal behind, a lobbying group seeking expansion of the H-1B program.

Trump, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, may be closer to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in his criticisms of the H-1B visa than any of his fellow Republicans seeking the presidential nomination. Sanders, an Independent who is seeking the Democrat presidential nomination, says the H-1B program is being used to help ship jobs overseas.

Trump's H-1B proposal is clearly aligned with the ideas of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Grassley's longtime ally, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) -- not to mention Sessions.

The intellectual roots of Trump's H-1B views can be found in its links, which includes the testimony and work of two of leading academic critics, Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University, and Hal Salzman, professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University, who studies the science and engineering workforce.

In previous presidential campaigns, the H-1B visa has been notable mainly by its absence. By making it major part of his immigration platform, Trump is clearly raising the issue's profile and may force other candidates to engage on it. That alone could lead to a much broader debate about the H-1B visa than ever before.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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