"I am calling TODAY on Disney to hire back every one of the workers they replaced, and I am calling on Rubio to immediately rescind his sponsorship of the I-Squared bill and apologize to every Floridian for endorsing it. I am further calling on Rubio to return the money he has received from Silicon Valley CEOs and to donate the money to a charity helping unemployed Americans whose jobs Rubio has helped to destroy."
- Donald Trump, October 29, 2015
The blatant contradiction between Donald Trump's answer to a question about H-1B visas and his own policy paper was one of the most talked about moments of the CNBC Republican debate Wednesday night.
Senator Rubio was also flagged by fact checkers for a statement that ran contrary to his record. Of the two, only Trump has attempted to clarify his position.
Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau says the H-1B-related questions posed by John Harwood and Becky Quick may have been the first time the visa program has ever come up in a presidential debate, though it isn't surprising.
The H-1B visa program has become a hot media topic of late:
- "Northeast Utilities creates STEM jobs -- in India" by Patrick Thibodeau, Computerworld, April 23, 2014
- "Foreign workers fill hundreds of Sacramento-area IT jobs"News10/KXTV February 24, 2015
- "Fury rises at Disney over use of foreign workers" by Patrick Thibodeau,Computerworld, April 29, 2015
- "Fossil Fires American Tech Workers, Imports Cheap Foreign Labor" by Rachel Stoltzfoos, Daily Caller, May 18, 2015
- "As Floridians Are Displaced, Rubio Demands More Foreign Workers" by Rachel Stoltzfoos, Daily Caller, May 19, 2015
- "Last Task After Layoff at Disney: Train Foriegn Replacements" by Julia Preston, New York Times, June 3, 2015
- "Disney Layoffs and Immigrant Replacements Draw Deluge of Comments," by Lela Moore, New York Times, June 5, 2015
- "New theme at Disneyland: Fire the American worker" New Jersey Star-Telegram editorial, June 8, 2015
- "Catalina Marketing IT jobs being outsourced" by Tina Jensen, My Fox Tampa Bay, June 25, 2015
- "Qualcomm Lays Off 4,500 Workers While Demanding More H-1bs," by Rachel Stoltzfoos, Daily Caller, July 29, 2015
- "Toys 'R' Us Brings Temporary Foreign Workers to U.S. to Move Jobs Overseas" by Julia Preston, New York Times, September 29, 2015
- "Former employees speak out about Disney's outsourcing of high-tech jobs," by Rebecca Vargas, ABC My Suncoast, October 28, 2015
In response to a question from Becky Quick, Trump denied ever being critical of Mark Zuckerberg's lobbying for more foreign workers - a claim that earned him a "Pants On Fire" rating from PolitiFact, which pointed to this excerpt from Trump's own immigration policy paper:
"Here are some additional specific policy proposals for long-term reform:
"Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs. We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program's lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities."
Trump surprised many when he went on to indicate that he agreed with Zuckerberg:
"In fact, frankly, [Zuckerberg's] complaining about the fact that we’re losing some of the most talented people. They go to Harvard. They go to Yale. They go to Princeton. They come from another country and they’re immediately sent out.
"I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley."
Many in the media were quick to point out the contradiction between Trump's statement and his own policy paper. But H-1B watchdog Professor Norm Matloff said Trump's reversal happened as far back in August:
"After posting the best platform on H-1B I’d ever seen by a major presidential candidate, Trump backpedaled the very next day, saying that he hadn’t been referring to the H-1Bs hired from among foreign students at U.S. universities. It is this group of H-1Bs that are hired by the Intels and Googles, which Trump was alluding to last night in statements such as 'I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley.'"
Matloff says that egregious as the cases of employers replacing Americans with guest workers are, "an equally serious problem is that employers hire foreign workers instead of Americans." He gives three examples:
- Cohen and Grigsby video: A prominent immigration law firm gave presentations to prospective clients, showing how to avoid hiring Americans and sponsor foreign workers for green cards instead. Another video in the series shows how loopholes in H-1B/green card law can be used to pay low wages to the foreign workers. Please click here to watch the short video before continuing.
- Cisco video: An American engineer applied for a job with Cisco, and found that the contact person was Cisco’s immigration attorney, who was apparently trying to screen OUT Americans. Please click here to watch the short video before continuing
- Swaim slide show: Here a prominent immigration attorney (who designed Texas Instruments’ immigration program) tells employers why they should hire foreign students instead of Americans. Please click here to view the short slide show before continuing.
Matloff points to Senator Marco Rubio's answer to John Harwood's question about American workers training their H-1B replacements as an example of a politician ignoring the "instead of" part of the problem:
"First, Rubio stated last night that employers found guilty of violating H-1B law should be permanently banned from the program. This is a favorite ruse of the industry PR people, obfuscating the issue by implying that the problem of H-1B abuse is mainly one of lack of enforcement of the law -- rather than the gaping loopholes in the law itself. He also obfuscates the discussion by claiming a need for training, implying that we have a tech labor shortage and thus further implying a need for more H-1Bs."
Rubio had his own "pants on fire" moment when he claimed to support reforms to offer protections for American workers. Not so, blogged Julia Preston of the New York Times:
"Senator Marco Rubio said he would require companies to advertise a job for 180 days domestically before it could be filled by a foreign worker with one of those visas. And he would require companies to prove that they would pay foreign workers more so wages for Americans would not be undercut.
But neither of those proposals is in a bill to increase H-1B visas that Mr. Rubio, along with other senators, sponsored this year.
"That bill, introduced in January, does not add any new protections from the existing H-1B program, which does not have a requirement to recruit American workers first and has led to many Americans being displaced by foreign workers with those visas."
As for Trump, his non-reversal-reversal wasn't the last he had to say on the subject this week.
Asked at a campaign event on Thursday about the ample supply of talented U.S. workers to fill STEM jobs, Trump said:
"Well you know that question was asked of me last night but it was asked in a very crazy way. What I do want - very important because we have to have with great talent - We have these students number one at Harvard, number one at Yale, number one at Princeton, number one at Stanford the best schools in our country. They get thrown out of our country. I don't want them out, you understand that. I want them to go to Silicon Valley, etc., etc.
"With the workers you're talking about, before anyone can come in - because the question I was asked, I was talking about Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford last night and the question was asked about the visas. We have to make sure our people are working first. We have to make sure. I don't mind taking people at all. But we have to make sure we need em' and we have to make sure our people are taken care of."
Much of that sounds like Trump would set a very high bar for issuing visas or green cards to foreign workers, including student visa holders. That would be a change from his August statement, but more in line with his policy paper. Also on Thursday, Breitbart published aninterview in which Trump said:
"America produces the best and brightest in the world. It’s time to stand up for own students - many of whom are racked with terrible, terrible debt and facing a disastrous job market. We are graduating two times more students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) than find jobs in those fields every year. We have a surplus of talented Americans and we need them to get jobs first."
Had Trump said something like this during the debate, he would have made a stark contrast between himself and Senator Rubio, who repeated his own belief that there aren't enough Americans with the skills to fill available STEM jobs, saying we need "to train Americans to do the work so we don’t have to rely on people from abroad.."
That has been the long-standing position of the Rubio camp. Matloff urges his readers to remember this report about comments a Rubio aide told the New Yorker during the Gang of Eight debate:
"'There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can't cut it,' a Rubio aide told me. 'There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can't get it, can't do it, don't want to do it. And so you can't obviously discuss that publicly."
Rubio's reversal wasn't his claim that there aren't enough skilled Americans for the available jobs. His contradiction was in claiming that he supported measures to protect U.S. STEM workers from unfair cheap labor practices. Like Trump, he was called out by Thibodeau and Preston, among others. Unlike Trump, Rubio has not yet attempted to clear up the apparent contradiction.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Feb 19th 2016 @ 10:23am EST