Donald Trump’s latest harsh immigration orders leave little doubt about how he and his administration view outsiders who have come to the U.S. illegally. His views on high-skilled, legal immigrants are more complicated. He’s vowed to punish companies that bend the rules to replace American workers with cheaper foreigners, but he’s also said he welcomes talented innovators to America’s shores. In fact, he can and should find a way to do both.
The H-1B visa program that’s used to bring high-skilled temporary workers to the U.S. has suffered from fraud and abuse, as Trump has said. Too many of the visas go to software services companies that underpay their foreign workers. In several widely publicized cases, U.S. tech workers have been forced to train their own replacements. Even those who haven’t lost their jobs have faced wage pressures because of the low-cost competition.
A draft executive order reportedly under consideration seeks to scale back H-1B visas and other programs for foreign workers. Though broadly worded, the order threatens to undo some recent reforms — including extending the time students graduating from U.S. universities are allowed to work in the country — and requires tighter scrutiny of businesses using the visas. Officials would be directed to investigate “the size of the foreign-born population” in the U.S. and its impact on “the wages and employment of U.S. workers.”