Trump Praises Guestworkers in Michigan Speech

By Preston Huennekens on May 2, 2018

At a campaign-style rally in Michigan, President Trump commented on guestworkers in the United States, and signaled his support for visa programs that allow foreigners to temporarily work in the United States.

Around 33 minutes into his remarks, Trump said:

For the farmers its going to get really good. We're going to let your guestworkers come in, because we have to have strong borders, but we have to let your workers in. Our unemployment picture is so good and so strong that we've got to let people come in, they're going to be guestworkers. They're going to work on your farms, we're gonna have the H-2Bs come in, we're going to have a lot of things happening, but then they have to go out. But we're gonna let them in because you need them. ... Guestworkers, don't we agree? We have to have them.

Trump referred to the H-2A temporary agricultural workers program used by farmers, and specifically named the H-2B non-agricultural program. He justified support for these two programs by reminding his audience that the unemployment rate of 4.1 percent is "so good and so strong".

Trump had not articulated his personal opinion on guestworkers at any great length before this speech (though he had expressed support for guestworker programs during the campaign). His administration is mixed on the issue. Some have accused USCIS of cracking down on the H-1B visa program, which allows businesses to hire skilled foreign nationals in STEM-related fields and other specialty occupations. USCIS is rumored to be reversing the Obama-era decision that granted spouses of H-1B visa holders (who have H-4 visas) their own work authorization.

Alternatively, Trump has twice signed legislation that temporarily expanded the H-2B cap. Two of his golf clubs, as well as his Mar-a-Lago resort, employ hundreds of temporary foreign workers.

Trump's crackdown on the H-1B program has netted some early positive results. In 2017, controversial foreign outsourcing firms received fewer H-1B visas than American firms such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel. Indeed, H-1B applications fell overall as more companies focused their energy onboarding American talent.

Unlike the H-1B program, the low-skilled H-2B program has not slowed under Trump. Although popular with businesses big and small, organized labor has long opposed the H-2B program on the grounds that it actively displaces U.S. workers, depresses their wages, and exposes foreign workers to abuse.

Trump's praise of the program during his Michigan speech drew no enthusiasm from the crowd.

Trump was only met with applause after he clarified that "we need people to be able to come into our country, do your jobs, help you on the farms, and then they go out, they're going to leave." (Emphasis added.)

Topics: Guestworkers