Trump signs order to rein in visa program
Pushes ‘buy-American, hire-American’ initiative
Attempting to keep a top campaign promise, President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to begin reining in the H-1B visa program that critics say for decades has allowed lower-wage foreign workers to take jobs from Americans.
The president took on the guest worker program as part of his “buy-American, hire-American” initiative, an effort that’s also seen the administration bolster rules against dumping foreign steel in the U.S. market and order stricter enforcement of laws requiring use of only U.S.-made materials in federal projects.
“American workers have long called for reforms to end these visa abuses and today their calls are being answered for the first time,” Mr. Trump said at a Snap-on tool factory headquarters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he singed the executive order.
He said the current system that doles out thousands of H-1B visas in an annual lottery is unfair to U.S. workers, and he vowed to restrict visas to only the most skilled and most-valued applicants, such as foreigners with masters degrees or doctorates.
“No one can compete with American workers when they are given a fair and level playing field, which has not happened for decades,” Mr. Trump said.
The order, however, did not impose the new requirements endorsed by the president. Instead, he launched a 220-day review to come up with proposed reforms.
The changes also stop short of Mr. Trump’s campaign pledge to cancel the H-1B visas, though the reforms he has endorsed would completely remake the programs.
The latest H-1B visas lottery was completed Monday, with nearly 200,000 applications submitted for just 85,000 slots.
The number of applications actually decreased this year compared to the previous two go-arounds, when more than 230,000 applications were submitted each year.
“The president’s executive order is a shot in the arm for America’s struggling middle class workers, and must now be followed up with legislation that makes permanent changes to our immigration system so it truly benefits America and its citizens,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for decreased immigration levels.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has long championed H-1B visa reform, said he was encouraged by Mr. Trump pushing the issue to the forefront.
Mr. Grassley and Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the assistant Democratic leader in the Senate, introduced a bill earlier this year to put more restrictions on eligibility for the guest worker visas.
“I’m grateful that President Trump has taken my suggestions to heart by taking steps today to protect American workers and preserve limited H-1B visas for truly qualified, high-skilled foreign workers,” Mr. Grassley said.
Mr. Durbin said the order “falls short.”
“We already know H-1B visa abuse displaces American workers. President Trump already missed a chance to deliver on his promise of bold action to put American workers first,” he said. “For a president who has prided himself on his swift action when it comes to immigration, an interagency review of