Ever wonder why President Donald Trump is trying so hard to kill certain work visa programs, but keeps expanding one of them?
For example, until 2015, spouses of workers here on H-1B visas were not allowed to legally hold a job. But President Barack Obama’s rule-change allowed certain H-4 spousal visa holders — those whose families were already far along in the process toward American citizenship — to contribute their considerable skills and experience to the country’s economy through the H-4 EAD program. (After all, about 30 nations, including Canada and Australia, already offer a warm welcome to immigrant couples who wanted to join their workforces.)
Today, four years later, Trump wants to sideline the nation’s 120,000 H-4 EAD workers, almost all of them women, mostly from India and China. (See “Forced Out,” p. 14.) Of those 120,000, an estimated 96 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 53 percent have master’s degrees. They’re trained in medicine, education, technology, business... skills we need here.
Sensible people would see these skilled workers as a gleaming asset and understand that in a global economy, perhaps we need these people more than they need us. But in April 2017, the administration, in response to Trump’s 2017 “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, started working to rescind H-4 EAD.
So why, really, does Trump want to kill this program?
One possible answer: This is a symptom of Trump’s all-encompassing hate for and jealousy of Obama, and another example of his administration’s drive to obliterate anything sensible or practical his predecessor built.
He’s clearly not doing it as a sop to big business, because heavy-hitters like The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have steadfastly and vociferously supported the H-4 EAD program. This includes Microsoft President Brad Smith, who says Trump’s war on work visas, specifically his plans to rescind the working spouse rule, could force his company to move jobs out of the U.S.
And Trump’s not killing H-4 EAD because he’s personally opposed to making money on the backs of foreign workers. Though he’s spent all of his time in office looking for ways to block every avenue of legal and illegal immigration, he does show a certain fondness for the H-2B.
Folks holding those generally low-skill work visas clean the toilets and make the beds at Mar-a-Lago and ensure the greens are velvety on Trump’s golf courses. In 2018, the Trump Organization requested at least 192 visas for foreign workers.
In April, he ranted about immigration before a conservative crowd in Las Vegas — “What can we do?” he wailed. “We can’t handle any more. Our country’s full. You can’t come in, I’m sorry.”
But then just last week, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor quietly published a temporary final rule increasing the cap on H-2B non-immigrant visas by up to 30,000 through the end of this fiscal year.
The only thing we can figure: Trump’s move to end the H-4 EAD program is just another handful of bloody red meat he can throw to his base — the incurious and the insular, whose fear of the vast multicultural unknown makes them uneasy.
In a new Pew Research Center study, almost half of white Republicans reported being bothered “a lot” or “some” to hear a foreign language spoken in public. And that, we think, explains a lot of the Trump administration’s decision-making around immigration, choices and actions that shoot our economy in the foot and make us look like small-minded idiots in the eyes of the world.