Trump Signs ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Order

President Donald Trump just signed an executive order encouraging businesses in the U.S. to put American workers first and hire them before foreign applicants.

By Mark Anderson

Donald Trump, in one of his first acts as president, pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now he has taken another action that puts Americans and their economic destiny first. On April 18, the president traveled to Kenosha, Wisc., to visit the headquarters of American tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc. While there, he signed an executive order dubbed “Buy American, Hire American.”

The new executive order, among other things, directs the Labor, Justice, Homeland Security, and State departments “to propose new rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse,” according to a Business Insider article. Those departments are expected to be tasked with recommending necessary changes so that H-1B employment visas are awarded only to “the most skilled or highest-paid applicants,” not to less-skilled classes of workers representing the cheap labor that exerts downward pressure on wages, a common criticism of the existing program.

Trump’s order is also reportedly designed to help strengthen requirements that American-made products be used in certain grant-funded federal transportation and construction projects. That’s timely, considering Trump wants to spend $1 trillion on badly needed nationwide infrastructure projects.

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is expected to review “how to close loopholes in enforcing the existing rules.” He will review rule waivers tucked away in free-trade agreements that are notoriously anti-labor. If it’s determined that the waivers do not benefit the U.S., administration officials are saying, the rules will be renegotiated or revoked.

Via a lottery approach, approximately 85,000 H-1B visas are distributed annually. Many go to technology companies, which often claim the U.S. has a shortage of skilled technology workers.

However, American technology employees have been laid off nationwide, replaced by H-1B visa holders. Rubbing salt in the wound, these laid-off workers are in some cases required to train their replacements or lose severance packages.

Trump’s executive order appears to be a move in the right direction, fulfilling his pledge to rework the economy toward “made in USA by American workers,” but there are lingering concerns. H-1B critic Ronil Hira, a Howard University public policy professor, said of Trump’s new order, “It’s not as aggressive as it needs to be.”

On Capitol Hill, a bill by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would require companies seeking H-1B visas to first make a good-faith effort to hire Americans, something members of Congress have considered previously, with unimpressive results.

Readers are asked to call Congress at 202-224-3121 or 225-3121 and demand that employment-visa changes must have teeth and truly put Americans first.

Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor.