Less than a week after securing the endorsement of true immigration reformer [mc_name name=”Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)” chamber=”senate” mcid=”S001141″ ], GOP presidential front runner Donald Trump unexpectedly reversed his position on H-1B workers. Responding to a question about the H-1B visa program — which is frequently used by companies to hire science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) foreign workers — at the latest Republican debate, Trump declared, “I’m changing. We need highly-skilled people in this country.” (See Fox News, Mar. 3, 2016; video of Trump’s comments available here) When pressed by Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly if he is “abandoning the position on your website,” Trump replied, “I’m changing it and I’m softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country.” (Id.)

Trump’s latest comments on H-1Bs contradict his official immigration platform. In that document (which remains unchanged), Trump states, “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 Immigration Plan; see also FAIR’s Analysis of Trump’s Plan) Trump’s immigration plan also notes that the H-1B visa does not require companies to hire Americans first, adding that “we need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed.” (Id.) Further emphasizing his criticism of the H-1B program on his official immigration platform, Trump says “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.” (Id.)

Interestingly, Trump’s flip-flop on H-1Bs came a week after Sen. Sessions held a hearing highlighting the plight of thousands of American workers being displaced by H-1B foreign workers. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 1, 2016) During that hearing, Leo Perrero testified about being laid off from Disney and being forced to train his H-1B replacement despite receiving outstanding performance reviews. (Id.) Additionally, leading experts detailed the loopholes in the H-1B law that allows companies to legally replace American workers with foreign H-1B workers. (Id.)

Shortly after the debate, Trump’s campaign sought to dismiss claims that the GOP candidate had changed his position on H-1Bs. “Megyn Kelly asked about highly-skilled immigration. The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay,” read a statement on Trump’s campaign website. (Trump Press Release, Mar. 3, 2016) “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions,” Trump declared. (Id.)