At Thursday night’s Fox News Republican presidential debate, GOP front runner Donald Trump “softened” his immigration policy platform and casually embraced the controversial H-1B visa program to bring high-skilled foreign workers into the country. The program has been at the center of the immigration debate in Congress with conservative lawmakers arguing that the program takes away jobs from Americans. Trump’s support for the program during the debate was a complete 180-degree shift from his position just hours before he entered the stage in Detroit.
“In the distant past — say, yesterday — Trump focused on abuses in the system, in which some big companies have been caught using H-1Bs to bring in foreign workers, force American employees to train their own replacements, and then pay the foreign worker less than the American had made — all to do mostly routine jobs in the tech industry,” reports The Washington Examiner’s Byron York.
That was Wednesday Trump. Thursday Trump sounded quite different. When debate moderator Megyn Kelly highlighted Trump’s inconsistency on the H-1B visa program, pointing to the fact that Trump’s campaign website explicitly opposes the program while Trump’s own words in the past appear to show tacit support, the real estate mogul simply stated, "I'm changing.” If that wasn’t clear enough, Trump repeated it once again, “I’m changing,” before adding:
We need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can't do it, we'll get them in. But, and we do need in Silicon Valley, we absolutely have to have.
So, we do need highly skilled, and one of the biggest problems we have is people go to the best colleges. They'll go to Harvard, they'll go to Stanford, they'll go to Wharton, as soon as they're finished they'll get shoved out. They want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately, they're not able to stay here. For that purpose, we absolutely have to be able to keep the brain power in this country.
I'm changing it. and I'm softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country.
Trump’s doublespeak came just days after Congress’ most vocal critic of the H-1B program, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, stood next to the GOP front runner and offered his unwavering support.
This just days after Trump got Sen. Sessions endorsement, plus endorsement of Disney workers victims of H-1B abuse. https://t.co/BWU0xLhJyR— Byron York (@ByronYork) March 4, 2016
Session’s support is perhaps one reason why Trump quickly reversed his position back to anti-H-1B visa program right after the debate. By “right after,” we’re talking literally an hour after (that’s about 60 minutes just in case the absurdity of the flip-flop isn’t obvious enough) he left the stage in Detroit.
Here is Trump’s post-debate clarification statement:
Megyn Kelly asked about highly-skilled immigration. The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.
In effect, Trump made a mockery of American presidential politics. Many on social media took notice; pundits quickly pounced on Trump the chameleon:
All Trump needed to say on immigration was that Mexicans are rapists. On details like visa levels, his voters are just as flexible as him.— Josh Barro (@jbarro) March 4, 2016
Trump’s Republican rivals joined in as well:
The Republican nominee cannot be somebody who is totally clueless on so many issues, including his signature issue.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 4, 2016
In classic Trumpian fashion, the real estate magnate attempted to turn the self-produced pantomime into a “win.” Bastardizing the English language, Trump used the euphemism “flexible” in order to explain away his egregious flip-flopping. "I’ve never seen a successful person who wasn’t flexible and who didn’t have a certain degree of flexibility," Trump squealed. "You have to be flexible because you learn," Trump added. "If you're going to be one way and you think it's wrong, does that mean the rest of your life you have to go in the wrong direction because you don't want to change?"
Welcome to Trump’s world where “strong” means war crimes, “leadership” means demagoguery, “flexible” means flip-flop, and “core principles” means anything goes as long as the masses remain satisfied.