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Trump’s generous green card proposal tickles tech companies’ fancy
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Trump’s generous green card proposal tickles tech companies’ fancy

Is it a play for donors or a betrayal of America First?

“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.”

That’s a quote from a globalist neoliberal, right?

Wrong. It’s one of former President Donald Trump’s recent comments on immigration. A far cry from conservatives' desire for a merit-based immigration system focused on high-skilled workers, Trump’s proposal has stirred much controversy, particularly on the right. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted “No” before deleting the post. And even Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), a libertarian, rebuked the idea, saying, “This ain’t it!”

The labor market doesn’t care if a 'super based' Mexican Catholic, a Palestinian Hamas sympathizer, or a Chinese communist is entering the labor pool. Any large shock of foreign labor will impact American wages. In fact, Big Tech lobbying groups openly admit that immigration is needed to decrease wages.

For context, green cards grant immigrants permanent residence in the country, unlike the temporary H work visas and F student visas. Noncitizens often use these temporary visas as stepping stones toward green cards and permanent residence in the United States. Many H-1B visa holders attempt to move onto the green card, which requires employer sponsorship.

Appearing on "All-In," a business and tech podcast hosted by four Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Trump vowed to hand out green cards to foreign nationals in his second term when urged by one of the hosts to allow tech-industry leaders to have “more ability to import the best and brightest around the world to America.”

Not only would such a policy incentivize universities to charge exorbitant tuition fees for international students, but it would also fulfill Big Tech’s dream of cheap labor.

“The stapling a green card to a diploma narrative is flawed because it’s attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist as there is no shortage of native born STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) workers,” said Kevin Lynn, executive director at the Institute for Sound Public Policy. “Almost three quarters of American STEM graduates do not work in STEM largely because wages have been eroded over the past two decades due to employers tampering with the labor markets by bringing in large numbers of immigrants.”

More labor = lower wages; it's not rocket science

Every intro to econ textbook teaches that prices increase when supply increases, all other things being equal. So, increasing the supply of tech workers drives the prices of workers (wages) down, lowering input prices for corporations. And even though immigrants eventually increase the demand for tech labor by starting businesses, for example, businesses take time to build. Also, there's no saying demand outpaces supply if many cheap workers are permanently injected into the economy.

To Trump’s credit, his team did try to ease the concerns of many “America First” conservatives. However, his team's statement given to the New York Times only mentioned “an aggressive vetting process” that would exclude “all communists, radical Islamists, Hamas supporters, [and] America haters.” The statement goes on to say, “Only after such vetting has taken place, we ought to keep the most skilled graduates who can make significant contributions to America ... who would never undercut American wages.”

But what’s to say that an America-loving immigrant won’t undercut wages? The labor market doesn’t care if a “super based” Mexican Catholic, a Palestinian Hamas sympathizer, or a Chinese communist is entering the labor pool. Any large shock of foreign labor will impact American wages. In fact, Big Tech lobbying groups openly admit that immigration is needed to decrease wages., a pro-immigration lobbying organization founded by many Silicon Valley elites, including Mark Zuckerberg and "All-In" podcast host Chamath Palihapitiya, released a report calling for more immigration to lower inflation and “alleviate national labor shortages,” arguing that “when labor is in short supply relative to demand, employers offer higher wages, which are in turn passed on to consumers, leading to rising prices.” The report says, “As immigration decreased before and during the pandemic, [hospitality and construction] jobs remained largely unfilled, leading to extreme labor shortages and rising wages.”

In other words, corporations want mass migration to lower wages. If there really is a labor shortage, companies will need to raise wages. That sounds like a win for Americans. But instead, Silicon Valley elites think it's more worthwhile to spend money on lobbying for cheap foreign labor rather than hiring Americans.

However, some experts say otherwise. David P. Goldman, deputy editor of Asia Times and Washington fellow at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life, told Blaze Media he applauded President Trump’s proposal, calling it “eminently sensible” and “simple, straightforward, and workable.”

“We want qualified immigrants, as opposed to unskilled illegals who compete for jobs with lower-income workers and burden our social services. We need more STEM graduates, especially engineers. Roughly 6% of our undergraduates major in engineering, compared to 33% in Russia and China,” Goldman said. “Foreign students comprise a disproportionately large share of STEM graduates. And our dysfunctional K-12 education system doesn't produce enough college entrants qualified for engineering and hard science.”

The victims

Recent STEM graduates cannot afford to compete with an artificially large applicant pool. There is no “labor shortage” that pro-immigration lobbying groups claim.

Many friends I met attending the University of Texas at Austin who are majoring in CS or CS-adjacent fields have expressed their uncertainty in securing a tech job. Those who recently graduated remain jobless despite having a degree from the seventh-ranked undergraduate CS program in America, along with multiple internships and projects on their resumes.

Dhriti Rajan, an alumna of the University of Texas, graduated last year with a degree in Computer Science. However, she is still job hunting.

“It's tough because the market isn't great at the moment so a lot of people just aren't hiring anyone at a level below senior engineers,” said Rajan. “Also, since there's an extremely high number of people applying for many of the jobs, you don't have a reasonable shot at your application even being looked at by big companies unless you're referred by someone else or write to recruiters directly on top of submitting the application.”

This phenomenon is evident throughout the country. Even though STEM graduates earn more than their non-STEM counterparts on average, only 28% of STEM-educated workers work in a STEM job.

Furthermore, many foreign graduates have an advantage compared to native-born STEM graduates. “Foreign graduates on OPT” — Optional Practical Training, which gives foreign students a three-year work permit if they graduate with a STEM degree — “have a competitive advantage over U.S. citizens when it comes to getting that first job after college,” Lynn said. “Hiring an OPT worker versus a citizen or permanent lawful resident amounts to a 15.3% discount per student because both the employer and foreign graduate are exempt from paying Medicare and Social Security taxes.”

President Trump has been the single most influential person pushing toward an America First immigration policy. While it’s good that centrist and libertarian “tech bros” are realizing the folly of open borders, now is not the time to shortchange citizens by seeking a “compromise” on immigration. Ultimately, Trump’s comments may reflect more of a tactic to court donors than a strategy to depress wages further and destabilize society.

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Ethan Xu

Ethan Xu

Ethan Xu is the Editor-In-Chief of the Texas Horn and an assistant editor of Return. He’s currently attending the University of Texas and was born and raised in the Lone Star State.
@realethanxu →