Presidential candidate Donald Trump stunned the H-1B visa watcher community today with his platform on immigration. which includes surprisingly detailed, helpful provisions regarding H-1B. Very interesting, coming on the heels of his outrageous comments on Mexican immigrants, which among other things inspired the creation of a Trump piñata.
Meanwhile, a Bernie Sanders piñata may well be next. Seems that Sanders isn’t ideologically pure enough on the immigration issue to satisfy the Latino activists, who accuse him of using — horror of horrors! — Republican tactics in his nuanced stance on immigration. You’re “either with us or agin’ us” with that crowd.
UPDATE, AUGUST 18: Trump tweeted comments today that totally negate the praise I had given him below regarding H-1B. See my new posting.
In this post, I’ll comment on both Trump’s and Sanders’ positions, relating both to an interesting recent essay which defended the latter but arguably applies to both candidates. Let’s start with Trump.
Trump’s proposals for handling illegal immigration are vintage Trump, some sensible, some off-the-wall, but on H-1B, the man gets an A+. I’ve never seen any politician, even Tom Tancredo, put up such an effective platform as Trump has. He decries that most of the visas go to the bottom two (out of four) wage levels in the legal requirements for H-1B, recognizing that the unrealistic prevailing wage law is at the heart of the problem. He insists that employers be required to give hiring priority to Americans. Most important to me is that, at least as stated, these provisions would go a long way to stem the visa abuse by not only the “Infosyses” (rent–a-programmer firms) but also the Intels, who are just as culpable. One nice added touch: He refers to pro-H-1B Senator Rubio as “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator.” :-)
Trump says in his platform what no other politician, including Sanders, is willing to say: Immigration is great in sensible quantities, but in its present form, both legal and illegal, it’s hammering the lower and middle classes. Take for example the high black and Latino unemployment rates. The Democrats say the solution is education and the Republicans say the path is lower taxes and regulation, and though both may have points, Trump states the obvious — bringing in large numbers of low-skilled immigrants is going to harm the most vulnerable people in our society, our own low-skilled (including earlier immigrants). I detailed this years ago in an article in The Public Interest. Among other things, I quoted Antonia Hernandez, a very sharp and caring woman who was then head of the Latino activist organization MALDEF:
…migration, legal and undocumented, does have an impact on our economy…(in) competition within the Latino community…There is an issue of wage depression, as in the garment industry, which is predominantly immigrant, of keeping wages down because of the flow of traffic of people.
It’s even worse now. And yet the Latino activists don’t seem to care, nor do their allies in the Democratic Party care. I haven’t heard a peep out of Rep. Luis Gutierrez about the blight that the immigration-swelled labor market brings on the Latino community. Indeed, the Latino activists want to shut down talk of harm to American low-skilled workers. This “burn the village to save it” mentality is appalling. Trump may be an impetuous buffoon, but if those remarks in his platform are sincere, I say, “¡Arriba El Donald!”
I’m a longtime admirer of Bernie Sanders, and I’m also a big fan of EPI researcher Daniel Costa. So, Costa’s article defending Sanders on the immigration issue, titled “On Immigration, Bernie Sanders is Correct,” was a must-read for me.
As usual, Costa’s writing here is thoughtful and engaging. And yet, Sanders is walking a tight line on this issue, forcing Costa to do the same. As I noted above, the current high level of immigration is harming American workers, far beyond the distinctions between guestworker programs, legal immigration and unauthorized immigration. I’m sorry, but that hard, cold fact cannot be ignored or wordsmithed around.
Regarding H-1B, a guestworker program, some recent statements by Sanders, and Costa’s analysis of Sanders’ stance on immigration, suggest to me that Sanders has bought into the notion that the Intels use H-1B responsibly while the Infosyses are the main abusers. As I’ve explained, this notion is just plain wrong; the abuse pervades the entire industry, yes, including the big household names. And as to the focus on guestworker programs, the alternative, giving fast-track green cards to new foreign graduates of American universities, is just as harmful as H-1B, again as I’ve often explained.
I should add that Sanders did team up with Grassley to ban financial firms using TARP money from using H-1Bs. Good for Sanders, though he may not have realized that the legislation had an enormous loophole: Foreign workers who wished to transition to an H-1B visa from some other visa type were exempt, e.g. foreigners on the F-1 student visa.
It is painful for me to make such statements about Sanders, who as I mentioned is someone I admire. I was in Seattle for a research conference last week. Unknown to me, Sanders was supposed to speak at 1 pm August 8 in Westlake Park, just a block and a half from my hotel. My wife and I walked past the park at about 12:30, and though it was clear that a political rally would be held, there were no signs mentioning that Sanders was on the program. So, we paid no attention to it, and enjoyed a day walking around the city. But around 3 or so, I noticed a newspaper saying that Sanders would speak at 1, and I kicked myself for having missed him. Later I learned that he had been shouted down by a couple of African-American activists, who implied that even Sanders was part of the “racism in our society.” Sanders a racist? What a topsy turvy world we are living in!
I believe that most Americans welcome immigrants. But immigration policy must be a sensible one that is beneficial to those already here. We need a national dialog on the issue, not selfish posturing by politicians. Hopefully Trump’s platform will lead to a broader — and more honest! — dialog on this crucial topic.