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  by  Roy Beck

The weight of Donald Trump's front-runner status and his detailed plan released over the weekend tipped the balance among the Republicans' 2016 Presidential field so that the dominant position now is that immigration policy is a jobs and wage issue.

And he joins several candidates in raising the question in one way or another of whether LEGAL immigration ought to be reduced.

Several candidates had already been advancing the idea in recent months that federal policies on LEGAL immigration are not serving the interests of the American worker.

Trump had not been one of them. He had seemed to be siding with other candidates who fall more in the typical "illegal bad, legal good" views on immigration. That group seemed to hold slightly more sway in the debate, thus far. But then this weekend, Trump joined those who have been questioning policies on legal immigration, and he did so with perhaps the strongest statement of them all, including this passage:

We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to: help wages grow, get teenagers back to work, aid minorities' rise into the middle class, help schools and communities falling behind, and to ensure our immigrant members of the national family become part of the American dream." -- TRUMP

He didn't limit his talk on cutting visas to low-skill foreign workers. He went on to decry efforts to increase work visas given to higher-skill foreign workers, setting himself up against Marco Rubio who he cat-called as the "personal senator" of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

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." TRUMP

He called for changes that would 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." -- TRUMP

The claim that legal immigration admissions could be so high as to be harmful to American workers was so novel as recently as last winter that, when Scott Walker suggested it, he was met with a flurry of denunciations from journalists and Republican Party officials.

Any hope they may have had to put an end to such talk has been dashed by Walker's continuing to hold firm in insisting that:

. . . the next president and the next congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that's based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages." -- WALKER

The spotlight on Walker cast more public light on Rick Santorum who has repeatedly argued that legal immigration admissions are retarding the ability of American workers to advance. Just recently, he said:

Since 2000, there have been about 6.5 million net new jobs created in this country. What percentage of those net new jobs are held by people who are in this country but not born in this country? The answer is all of them. There are fewer native-born Americans working today than there was in the year 2000." SANTORUM

Mike Huckabee in June raised questions about the argument for more highly-skilled workers which is still the battle-cry of the bulk of Republican political consultants:

When people come and take a job that an American has trained for--I mean, recently, we had numerous testimonials of people who in the high-tech sector were actually having and forced to train their replacements who were imported workers who were coming in and making less than half of what they were being paid . . . when companies are undercutting an American worker just so they can increase their profits without regard to the people who made them profitable in the first place, that's not a money issue. That's a moral issue." -- HUCKABEE

Carly Fiorina is not revealing much yet about her view on current legal immigration policies, but she has echoed Huckabee on visas for high-skilled immigrants.

Even Jeb Bush has begun to suggest to voters that he might be open to having fewer immigrants. Just this month, he said:

Legal immigration needs to be reformed as well. Most of our legal immigrants come through a quota system by country and by family petitioning. . . . We have the broadest definition of family in the world: spouse and minor children, like every country, right? And then adult siblings and adult parents. If we narrowed that to what every other country has, it would be half a million people less." -- BUSH

And over on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders complained to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce about unfair competition that immigration poses for struggling American workers. He has not offered any specific proposals, but he stated a principle that was basically repeated by Trump over this weekend:

With high unemployment rates for high school-age kids in America - 36 percent for Hispanics - I frankly do not believe we should be bringing in significant numbers of unskilled workers to compete with those kids. I want to see these kids get jobs." -- SANDERS

If all those above statements and more from those candidates have started a bit of a fire in media attention to the jobs/wage competition issue, the following excerpts from Trump's position paper ought to add some high-octane gasoline:

Decades of disastrous trade deals and immigration policies have destroyed our middle class. Today, nearly 40% of black teenagers are unemployed. Nearly 30% of Hispanic teenagers are unemployed. For black Americans without high school diplomas, the bottom has fallen out: more than 70% were employed in 1960, compared to less than 40% in 2000." -- TRUMP

Across the economy, the percentage of adults in the labor force has collapsed to a level not experienced in generations. . . . The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and
makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans -- including immigrants themselves and their children -- to earn a middle class wage. Nearly half of all immigrants and their US-born children currently live in or near poverty, including more than 60 percent of Hispanic immigrants. Every year, we voluntarily admit another 2 million new immigrants, guest workers, refugees, and dependents, growing our existing all-time historic record population of 42 million immigrants." -- TRUMP

Perhaps most provocatively, Trump closed with a section titled, "Immigration moderation:"

Before any new green cards are issued to foreign workers abroad, there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers. This will help reverse women's plummeting workplace participation rate, grow wages, and allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages." -- TRUMP

A "pause?"

"Historical averages?"

These phrases tease us with the thought of at least a temporary moratorium and shooting for an annual legal immigration level chopped from 1.2 million to 300,000.

The most important outcome of Trump's plans may be pressure for all candidates -- including Trump -- to be asked what level of legal immigration they support.

ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA

Elections 2016

Updated: Fri, Feb 19th 2016 @ 10:32am EST

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