Donald Trump and the H-1B
Donald Trump has been very vocal with his opinions about the H-1B visa program. He has not been clear in terms of what his actual plan for the program is, but earlier this year he was quoted talking about how he would end the use of H-1B as a ”cheap labor program.”
Trump has also stated his view that it’s an absolute requirement to hire American workers “for every visa and immigration program,” which makes no sense; if Americans are hired for every job, then there are no foreign workers and no need for visas. At the same time, Trump admits that the ”U.S. needs more highly skilled people and if we can’t find them in the U.S., we’ll find a way to get them into the U.S.”—which contradicts what he said about all positions being filled by Americans.
Some people argue that there are enough Americans who have the skills and education to take all the skilled positions available and that, therefore, there is no need for a visa or immigration program at all. USCIS has created a 17-month extension to the already existing one year authorization to work to foreign nationals graduating from U.S. universities, in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). This was clearly done to encourage those individuals to remain in the U.S., because there isa need for them that is not met by U.S. citizen graduates.
Does Donald Trump practice what he preaches?
So how does this debate apply to Donald Trump in practice? Does he hire only Americans? Does he not use the H-1B program because it is not necessary?
The answer is that not only does Trump use the H-1B program to hire foreign nationals but his companies abuse the program by paying those foreign nationals less than their American counterparts. The rhetoric he espouses about being committed to eliminating rampant widespread H-1B abuse and ending the outrageous practices such as what happened at Disney*, is not only empty talk, it is completely undermined by his companies’ hiring practices..
In one recent case which has now come to light via the courts, a foreign national is earning significantly less than what she was required to be paid by law per an attestation that was made to the Department of Labor before submitting an H-1B petition. She is/was also receiving a lot less than what the equivalent American citizen would earn for that specific job.
Trump Model Management (TMM) is being sued by Alexia Palmer, a Jamaican model who was brought here under the H-1B visa program. She was promised a salary of $75,000 a year in the attorney letter and in the I-129 form, which are used for the H-1B petition. In the Department of Labor conditions applications, she was promised even more than the highest level wage required to be paid, which was $47,000.
In the end, she got somewhere around $5,000 total from TMM over the course of 3 years. If they had not been getting work for her to do, then they could have either:
1. Terminated her contract, at which time she would not be required to get paid any more, or
2. Filed what’s called an Amended H-1B, which allows them to give her a part-time salary based on a minimum hourly wage.
They did neither of those things. They allowed her to be in the U.S. for 3 years and never paid her what was required. The Trump camp is saying that she didn’t file a complaint with the Department of Labor in a timely manner stating that she wasn’t paid. But what they are essentially doing is tying the case up in a long court process. The attorneys defending Trump’s company blamed it on the system and did not admit to tampering with her salary.
“She just didn’t have a very successful modeling career,” said Lawrence Rosen, the attorney representing the Trump agency. The USCIS was clear, however, that the pay requirement applies to “an employer or an agent.”  (Click here to read full article on CNN.com)
If Trump’s company has done this in this one instance, is it systematic? And if it is systematic, what makes him and his companies any better than Disney or other companies he accuses of abusing the H-1B program?
* (American workers were supposedly laid off and replaced with immigrant workers, who could be paid less than their American counterparts.)
 Ellis, Blake, and Melody Hickon. “Trump’s Modeling Agency Broke Immigration Laws, Attorneys Say.” CNN Money. Cable News Network, 10 Mar. 2016. Web.