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The H-1B positions of Clinton and Trump

Patrick Thibodeau | July 18, 2016
Where the two candidates stand on tech-related immigration

With the political conventions set for the next two weeks, now is the time to offer a summary of where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stand on tech's top issue, immigration.

Silicon Valley fears Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. A letter released Thursday and signed by about 150 technologists, inventors and entrepreneurs, said Trump would be a disaster for innovation. Much of their criticism was directed at his proposed immigration policies.

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, is far more aligned with Silicon Valley on immigration.

The green card divide

Clinton supports near-automatic green cards for foreign students who earn an advanced STEM degree at a U.S. university. Although details of her plan have not been released, these "staple-a-green-card-to-the-diploma" proposals typically require the grad to first get a STEM job.

For his part, Trump wants a "pause" in issuing new green cards to foreign workers. The idea is to encourage employers to hire the unemployed. He argues this will also improve hiring of women and grow wages. The division between Trump and Clinton on employment-based green cards could not be sharper.

Trump has pitched a rewrite of the H-1B system. He wants to raises the wages of foreign workers and give preference to American workers. Clinton has yet to offer an H-1B reform plan.

But nothing is ever as clear as it seems. There are big uncertainties ahead.

Can Trump be trusted to reform the H-1B program?


Donald Trump
Gage Skidmore/Trump Campaign

Donald Trump at a rally in Florence, South Carolina, on Feb. 5, 2016

During the campaign Trump came very close to retreating on his promised H-1B reforms. In a GOP debate in Detroit, Trump said he was "changing" his H-1B positon after considering the arguments for keeping foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities in this country.

After the debate, Trump's campaign issued a statement reiterating his visa platform pledges including "hire Americans first."

Trump is a businessman and a tough one. Jamaican model Alexia Palmer, who worked for Trump Model Management for just over three years, filed a lawsuit against that business in 2014. Palmer worked on an H-1B visa.

The lawsuit claimed that Palmer was to be paid $75,000 a year. But for all the work she did from 2011 to 2013, she received a check in the amount of $3,880. Palmer had signed a separate contract explicitly stating that she would be responsible for all expenses. The lawsuit alleged her employer "took more than 80%" of Palmer's "hard earned money by cloaking it as expenses."

The expenses included postage, "unnecessary cosmetic kits" and "expensive limousines, all at the plaintiff's expense," the lawsuit claimed. Supporting court records show a long list of expenses, including $4,000 in administrative fees, Federal Express charges, an Internet promo website and stylist charges, among others.


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