Republican frontrunner Donald Trump now says Indians studying in the US are smart, and an attempt should be made to have them stay on after they graduate and not “kick them out”.
Trump has been recalibrating his position on the hiring of foreign workers. He has both opposed and supported H-1B visas, which allow US companies to hire highly skilled workers either from abroad or from among foreign students in universities here.
He called for the programme to be ended as recently as the Republican debate on March 10, when Indian companies came in for specific mention.
Asked to clarify by a Fox News interviewer on Sunday, he said, “They go to Harvard, they are first in their class and they’re from India. They go back to India and they set up companies and they make a fortune and they employ lots of people and all of that.
“Many people want to stay in this country and then want to do that. I think somebody that goes through years of college in this country, we shouldn’t kick them out the day they graduate, which we do.”
The suggestion to encourage foreign students to stay on is not new. Many experts and lawmakers have been arguing for it for long, especially for those graduating from STEM — science, technology, engineering and maths — courses.
In a 2013 legislation, a bipartisan group of senators proposed hiking the annual cap on H-1B visas from the current 65,000 to 110,000 and going up to 180,000. The cap on foreign students, who Trump was talking about in the Fox News interview, was proposed to go up from 20,000 to 25,000.
The Senate bill ran into roadblocks in the House of Representative over the politically contentious issue of granting citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants.
Trump has played both sides of the issue.
On his campaign website, he has opposed H-1B expansion, as proposed in the Senate legislation, arguing it would “decimate” American jobs, especially for women and minorities.
But when asked about it at the party’s March 3 debate, Trump said, “I’m changing.” He added, “We need highly skilled people in this country. If we can’t do it, we will get them in.”
When pressed if he was abandoning his campaign position, he said, “I’m softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country.”
At the party’s last debate in Miami, Florida, last week, he wheeled around completely to say he has used the H-1B programme himself, and it should be ended. “It’s something that I frankly use and I shouldn’t be allowed to use it. We shouldn’t have it. Very, very bad for workers.”
Or it should be paused for a review. “I think for a period of a year to two years we have to look back and we have to see...where we are, where we stand, what’s going on.”