Trump order would target high skilled worker visa program

Trump order would target high skilled worker visa program

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is planning to sign an executive order that seeks to make changes to a visa program that brings in high-skilled workers.

Trump is heading Tuesday to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he plans to sign an order dubbed “Buy American, Hire American,” said administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity despite the president’s frequent criticism of the use of anonymous sources.

The officials said the order, which Trump will sign at the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc., would direct the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor and State to propose new rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse. Those departments would also be asked to offer changes so that H-1B visas are awarded to the “most-skilled or highest-paid applicants.”

The White House said the program is currently undercutting American workers by bringing in cheaper labour and said some tech companies are using it to hire large numbers of workers and drive down wages.

Administration officials said the order also seeks to strengthen requirements that American-made products be used in certain federal construction projects, as well as in various federal transportation grant-funded projects. The officials said the commerce secretary will review how to close loopholes in enforcing the existing rules and provide recommendations to the president.

The order specifically asks the secretary to review waivers of these rules that exist in free-trade agreements. The administration said that if the waivers are not benefiting the United States they will be “renegotiated or revoked.”

During his campaign, Trump said at some point that he supported high-skilled visas, then came out against them. At one debate, he called for fully ending the program, saying: “It’s very bad for our workers and it’s unfair for our workers. And we should end it.”

The officials said the changes could be administrative or legislative and could include higher fees for the visas, changing the wage scale for the program or other initiatives.

About 85,000 H-1B visas are distributed annually by lottery. Many go to technology companies, which argue that the United States has a shortage of skilled technology workers.

But critics say the program has been hijacked by staffing companies that use the visas to import foreigners — often from India — who will work for less than Americans. The staffing companies then sell their services to corporate clients who use them to outsource tech work.

Employers from Walt Disney World to the University of California in San Francisco have laid off their tech employees and replaced them with H-1B visa holders. Adding to the indignity: The U.S. workers are sometimes asked to train their replacements to qualify for severance packages.

On the planned order by Trump, Ronil Hira, a professor in public policy at Howard University and a critic of the H-1B program, said, “It’s better than nothing.” But he added, “It’s not as aggressive as it needs to be.”

The tech industry has argued that the H-1B program is needed because it encourages students to stay in the U.S. after getting degrees in high-tech specialties — and they can’t always find enough American workers with the skills they need.

Congress is considering several bills to overhaul the visa program. One, introduced by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, would require companies seeking H-1B visas to first make a good-faith effort to hire Americans, a requirement many companies can dodge under the current system; give the Labor Department more power to investigate and sanction H-1B abuses; and give “the best and brightest” foreign students studying in the U.S. priority in getting H-1B visas.

Trump’s stop at the world headquarters of Snap-on Inc. would come as the president faces an approval rating of just 41 per cent in Wisconsin, a state he barely won in November. The visit also would take him to the congressional district of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who won’t be joining the president because he’s on a bipartisan congressional trip visiting NATO countries.

Trump has travelled to promote his agenda less than his recent predecessors. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump wanted to visit “a company that builds American-made tools with American workers.”

Trump carried Wisconsin in November by nearly 23,000 votes — less than 1 percentage point — making him the first Republican to win the state since 1984. He campaigned on the promise of returning manufacturing jobs that have been lost in Upper Midwest states.

Founded in Wisconsin in 1920, Snap-on makes hand and power tools, diagnostics software, information and management systems, and shop equipment for use in a variety of industries, including agriculture, the military and aviation. Its headquarters are in Kenosha and it has eight manufacturing sites in North America, including one in Milwaukee. The company employs about 11,000 people worldwide.

___

Associated Press writer Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.

Catherine Lucey And Scott Bauer, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Meet Your Candidates: Learn more about the Esquimalt council candidates

We asked candidates what changes they would make in the municipality

BC SPCA sees successful weekend from adoption sales

On Saturday animal shelters across the province reduced their adoption fees

Afternoon collision launches vehicle through downtown Victoria business

Two female drivers and staff of CEV Victoria uninjured, but visibly shaken

West Shore RCMP tape off Langford law office sent suspicious substance last month

No confirmation as to why police were back at Hemminger Law Group Monday afternoon

Two drivers crash through Victoria homes in two weeks

VicPD say alcohol is believed to a factor in both incidents

Campers near Saanich municipal hall await response from transportation ministry

MOTI expected to decide Monday when campers need to leave

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

Most Read