Trump green lights more green cards

Former US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
Former US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Summary

He acknowledges the need for human talent to compete with China and the rest of the world.

When Steve Bannon is unhappy with Donald Trump, you know the former President has taken a good turn. Mr. Trump did so last week in saying he’d like to give a green card for residence in the U.S. to any foreigner who graduates from an American college or university.

“Let me just tell you that it’s so sad when we lose people from Harvard, MIT, from the greatest schools and lesser schools that are phenomenal schools also," Mr. Trump said on the All-In Podcast with Silicon Valley grandees last week.

“But what I want to do, and what I will do, is 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," Mr. Trump added. “Anybody graduates from a college, you go in there for two years or four years, if you graduate, or you get a doctorate degree from a college, you should be able to stay in this country."

We’ll admit we didn’t see that coming, but good for Mr. Trump. The U.S. is in competition for the best and brightest minds, and too many graduates of U.S. schools are forced to return home even if they have a job offer and want to stay in the U.S. and build a career. The U.S. doesn’t train enough native engineers and scientists in particular, given the decades-long failure of public K-12 education.

The U.S. needs foreign talent to compete with China, which is sprinting ahead in many high-tech and scientific areas that will determine who leads the world in the future. The U.S. National Science Board found that in 2021 temporary visa holders earned 7% of U.S. science and engineering bachelor’s degrees, 34% of master’s degrees, and 35% of doctoral degrees. It’s a form of national masochism to educate these students and then send them away to help other countries surpass the U.S.

Mr. Bannon and the restrictionists criticized Mr. Trump’s remarks, and the Trump campaign followed up by adding caveats that all such graduates would have to be vetted for security concerns. But Mr. Trump has the right instinct in making a distinction between chaotic illegal immigration, which he wants to reduce, and skilled foreigners who want to come to the U.S. in an orderly and legal fashion.

As for the politics, no one is going to believe that Mr. Trump is suddenly a sellout on border security. The green card for graduates is also a counterpoint to Mr. Trump’s typically harsh rhetoric about migrants and what will be a disruptive plan for mass deportation.

Mr. Trump came close to getting an immigration reform compromise done with Congress in 2018, only to back away under pressure from adviser Stephen Miller. What would happen in a second term is anyone’s guess. But it’s encouraging to see him speaking up about America’s need to attract and retain human talent in an increasingly competitive world.

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