International Policy Digest

Politics /27 Jul 2016

Trump and Clinton: Where they Stand on Immigration

Both candidates say they are in favor of immigration reform, but their proposed approaches to reform are very different. Hillary Clinton favors policies that will create pathways to citizenship, that will keep families together, and that will extend President Obama’s executive actions providing relief from deportation.

Donald Trump wants to build a wall along the Mexican border, to increase immigration enforcement, to stop granting citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents here illegally, and to favor Americans for jobs.

H-1B Visas

The H-1B Visa program brings in highly skilled foreign workers, often in technology fields, to work for three to six years when their skills are needed because there is a shortage of U.S. workers available with those in-demand skills. Donald Trump’s current position is that the program is harmful because it brings in cheap workers who undercut Americans who need jobs.

Hillary Clinton has not taken a position on this visa program during the current campaign. Eight years ago, however, she said that she thought the program was beneficial and that she wanted to increase the number of H-1B Visas issued annually.

Donald Trump has made conflicting statements about his policies on H-1B Visas. In the past, Trump has been sharply critical of the H-1B Visas, saying that the visa program harmed U.S. women and minorities. In a March 2016 debate, however, Trump spoke favorably about the H-1B Visa program saying that we need the highly-skilled workers the visas bring in.

That favorable view expressed in the debate appears to be an anomaly. Currently, on his campaign website, Trump is still highly critical of the H-1B program. He says that as many as two-thirds of entry-level hires in information technology in the U.S. are H-1B Visa holders, and that most of these workers are being paid the lowest or near the lowest salaries that the visa program allows.

Trump wants to raise the prevailing pay rate for H-1B Visa holders, which he says will force employers to hire more workers from within the U.S. Trump also wants to institute a requirement to make employers hire American workers, especially prioritizing the unemployed, before bringing in new workers from outside the country on H-1B Visas.

In her first Presidential campaign in 2008, Hillary Clinton said that she wanted to lift the cap on the number of H-1B Visas that are issued each year. She said that at that time the skilled workers brought in under the visa program “contribute greatly” to our ability to innovate. Later, when she was Secretary of State, she took a more nuanced approach saying there was a need to balance competing interests. Now she is not saying anything about the issue, and there is nothing on her campaign website specifically about H-1B Visas.

Muslims and Mexican Immigration

The Trump campaign has focused specifically on immigrants from Mexico and also Muslim immigrants. In December of 2015, Donald Trump’s campaign issued a press release saying he wanted a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” until our leaders could “figure out what is going on.”

Hillary Clinton strongly criticized Trump’s position saying, “It goes against everything we stand for as a nation founded on religious liberty.”

More recently, Trump appears to have modified his stand. On June 13, 2016, he said that he would suspend immigration from areas with a “proven history of terrorism” against the U.S. While this is a smaller ban than one against all Muslims would be, it would still effect a substantial number of people. CNN calculated that this proposed ban could affect people in 40 countries and eliminate approximately 2,572,000 non-immigrant visas and 159,000 immigrant visas per year, based on the number of visas granted from those countries in the recent past.

Trump’s position on Mexican immigration has not changed. His campaign website says that one of the three core principals of his immigration plan is to build a wall across the southern border for which Mexico will pay.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t think big changes are necessary along the Mexican border. In a March 2016 interview, she said that when she was in the Senate she had voted to secure the border and thinks that we have done a “really good job.” She also said that immigration from Mexico has “dropped considerably.”