WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is directing federal agencies to review a visa program used by companies to hire high-skilled foreign workers in the U.S.
Mr. Trump announced the initiative, dubbed “Buy American, Hire American,” Tuesday afternoon at the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-on (SNA) in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery and that’s wrong,” he said. “Instead, they should be given to [the] most skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans.”
Flanked by Snap-on workers, members of his administration and local leaders, the president followed his remarks by signing an executive order requiring the government to examine the visa program.
The White House says the H-1B visa program undercuts American workers by bringing in large numbers of cheaper, foreign workers, driving down wages.
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.
“We hope the goal of President Trump’s executive order on the H-1B program is ‘mend it, don’t end it,’ said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank that is lobbying in favor of the visas, in a statement. “Reforming the program could help improve its effectiveness in attracting the world’s best and brightest.”
The order directs U.S. agencies to propose rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the program. They would also be asked to offer changes so that H-1B visas are awarded to the “most-skilled or highest-paid applicants,” 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 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 commerce secretary will review how to close loopholes in existing rules and provide recommendations to the president.
The order specifically asks the secretary to review waivers of these rules in free-trade agreements. The waivers could be renegotiated or revoked if they are not benefiting the United States.
Trump’s visit to Wisconsin takes him to the congressional district of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who didn’t join the president because he’s on a congressional trip visiting NATO countries.
Trump campaigned on populist promises to stand up to China, which he claimed was manipulating its currency and stealing American jobs, and to eliminate the Export-Import bank, which he billed as wasteful subsidy. In a series of interviews last week, Trump reversed himself on both positions
And while he has long pledged to support American goods and workers,…