Trump: Foreigners who attend U.S. schools and want to stay should be allowed to

In case you think Trump’s just making up his immigration platform as he goes along … yeah, that seems quite possible, actually.

Strange but true: For all the headlines yesterday about him calling for mass deportation of illegals, that demand doesn’t appear anywhere in the immigration white paper posted to his website. Deportations are mentioned only once, in a reference to illegals who join gangs. Mass deportations was simply something he dropped into his chat on Sunday with Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” This new bit about letting foreign students stay indefinitely in the U.S. after graduation is in that same “oh, by the way” afterthought vein. As a policy, there’s a strong argument for it: The students are here legally and many of them will have graduated with valuable STEM skills. (According to one analysis last year, fully two-thirds of foreign students study STEM.) Why force them to take that expertise back to China or Mexico or wherever else when it could be used to create wealth here? There’s no contradiction between Trump’s crackdown on illegals and his red carpet for students enrolled in American schools legally.

Or is there? From his immigration white paper:

We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program’s lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.

That’s not inconsistent with his tweets; he specifically says he wants unemployed native “and immigrant” workers who are already here to have a better shot at getting STEM jobs. It is, though, an odd exception to his “America first” philosophy generally. If we already have a labor glut of STEM-trained Americans who can’t find jobs in their fields, why encourage foreign students — again, most of whom study STEM disciplines — to stay and make the glut worse by competing with citizens for those jobs? How does he reconcile “Silicon Valley needs engineers” in a tweet about letting foreign students stay with the crack about Mark Zuckerberg using Rubio to favor foreign-educated techies over American ones? Both groups, the students and the H1-B recipients, will be creating wealth in the U.S. once they’re here, right? So why have a strong preference for one over the other? This is no small matter: As of 2013, there were more than 800,000 foreign students enrolled in American colleges and universities. This is a lot of workers potentially affected by this policy.

While you mull that, here’s Jeb Bush dumping on the idea of a border wall and Trump’s plan to stop remittances to Mexico. He’s on firm ground with the last part of that, at least. According to one analyst at Fortune, because many remittances are now transferred via digital currencies like Bitcoin, it’d be much harder for the feds to intercept them than Trump fans think.