President Trump has moved towards his first major breakthrough in changing legislative policy by signing an executive order which targets highly-skilled workers in the United States.
The H1-B visa program is used primarily for the upper tier of highly-skilled workers in the science, medical and engineering fields. It’s particularly popular in the tech industry, with 15 percent of Facebook’s staff enrolled on the H1-B program, according to the Reuters news agency.
There are dissenting voices from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who claim Trump was too late in his decision to sign off an executive order with this year’s batch of visas handed out.
“For a president who has prided himself on his swift action when it comes to immigration, an interagency review of the program is a guarded and timid approach. It’s too little, too late,” said US Senator Dick Durbin.
‘Defending our workers’
Throughout his election campaign, Trump pushed the “Buy American, hire American” maxim and prefers to move towards a merit-based visa system, which only encourages the most-talented workers from abroad to come.
“Right now H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery and that’s wrong. Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants and they should never ever be used to replace Americans,” said the US president in Wisconsin.
Lottery funds more than 65,000 H1-B applications each year with another 20,000 handed out to graduate student workers. The US government has already received more than 200,000 applications this year.
“We are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first,” declared Trump at a rally in Wisconsin.
The US president added that the visa program to bring in the best of the international workforce “should include only the most skilled and highest-paid applicants and should never ever be used to replace American workers.”
As Trump approaches his 100-day milestone in the White House, he has failed to pass any serious policies through Congress. His bid to revamp the American Health Care Act was an embarrassing failure for the administration. He has already signed a number of executive orders since he took office, including the decision to ban travelers from some majority-Muslim nations.