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Trump's liberal green card plan faces skepticism

Donald Trump's plan to issue green cards to all college graduates exceeds Hillary Clinton's 2016 proposal and raises skepticism about the likelihood of it ever being adopted.

In 2016, when Hillary Clinton ran for U.S. president against Donald Trump, she supported "stapling" a green card to foreign nationals earning a master's or Ph.D. degree from accredited universities. In his current bid for re-election, Trump is now proposing attaching green cards to any foreign national who earns a degree from at least a junior college.

Trump's latest move on green cards, or permanent residency, goes further than he has in the past. During his campaign in 2016, in a speech on immigration in Phoenix, Trump said immigration should be based on "merit, skill and proficiency."

In this election, Trump, on an All-In Podcast episode, said that as president, the message will be, "If you graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically, as part of your diploma, a green card to be able to stay in this country. And that includes junior colleges too."

But when Trump was president, his administration favored restrictionist immigration. What he is now proposing for green cards goes well beyond what Clinton was willing to support in 2016 and what President Biden has indicated support for. This raises skepticism about Trump's sincerity regarding his plan.

No one has ever suggested green cards for junior college graduates, former U.S. Rep. Bruce Morrison, D-Conn., said. Morrison chaired the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement from 1989 to 1991 and helped write the 1990 immigration law that now governs the immigration process. "Just because someone gets a degree doesn't mean they have useful skills," he said in an interview.

Employment-based green card sponsors

The current system uses employment-based green cards sponsored by employers, which act as a screening mechanism, Morrison said. "Employers hire people because they think they have the necessary skills," he said.

Morrison said Trump's plan could fuel diploma mills aimed at foreign students, churning out junior college degrees for green cards. "There are literally millions of rich people in China who will buy the degree," he said.

You can say anything you want, and [Trump] does say anything he wants.
Bruce MorrisonFormer U.S. Rep., D-Conn.; chair, U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement

Morrison's criticism extends beyond potential abuse of the system. He also questions whether Trump is believable. His administration tried to restrict immigration and cited the outbreak of COVID-19 as a reason to temporarily stop immigration. "You can say anything you want, and he does say anything he wants," he said.

The U.S. has an employment-based green card annual cap of 140,000. President Biden supported legislation in 2021 to raise this cap to 170,000. There has been a persistent backlog of more than one million people waiting for employment-based green cards. Some of the backlog is a consequence of the per-country caps. No country can get more than 7% of the available employment-based green cards, which creates multi-year waiting times for people from India and China, where demand is the highest.

Trump's proposal also comes at a time when the tech industry has been laying off workers. The unemployment rate for IT professionals reached nearly 5% this month, with 129,000 out of work, according to data from Janco Associates Inc., a labor market research firm.

"If all the in-demand jobs go to green card holders, then we will have higher unemployment of U.S. nationals in IT," said Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco. This concern highlights the complex balance between attracting foreign talent and protecting domestic job opportunities in the ongoing debate over immigration policy.

Patrick Thibodeau is an editor at large for TechTarget Editorial who covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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