PRESIDENT Donald Trump is set to tighten rules on technology companies bringing highly-skilled foreign workers into the US, reviving the economic populism that helped drive his election campaign.
As Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull scrapped the 457 visa for skilled foreign workers, Mr Trump prepared to sign an order aimed at curbing what his administration says are abuses in a visa program that harm Americans.
Dubbed “Buy American, Hire American,” the directive follows a series of recent Trump reversals on economic policies.
The president is to sign the executive order at Snap-on Inc. in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a state he narrowly carried in November on the strength of support from white, working class voters. Mr Trump currently has only a 41 per cent approval rating in the state.
He is targeting the H-1B visa program, which the White House says undercuts American workers by bringing in large numbers of cheaper, foreign workers, driving down wages.
The tech industry has argued that the H-1B program is needed because it encourages students to stay in the US after getting degrees in hi-tech specialties.
The new order would direct US agencies to propose rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the program. They would also be asked to offer changes so that H-1B visas are awarded to the “most-skilled or highest-paid applicants”.
The officials said the order also seeks to strengthen requirements that American-made products be used in certain federal construction projects, as well as in various federal grant-funded transportation projects. The commerce secretary will review how to close loopholes in existing rules and provide recommendations to the president.
The order specifically asks the secretary to review waivers of these rules in free-trade agreements. The waivers could be renegotiated or revoked if they are not benefiting the United States.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced the government will abolish 457 visas for foreign workers.
Mr Trump has blamed, without proof, his predecessor Barack Obama for allowing the MS-13 criminal gang to take root in US cities.
The MS-13, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha, is one of the criminal groups behind a wave of violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The gang was formed in Los Angeles by Salvadoran immigrants fleeing civil war in the 1980s, but remains active in the United States.
US officials deported several gang members in the early 2000s to their countries of origin, contributing to the explosive spread of crime in the region.
Domestic crime blamed on MS-13 include the murder of four Hispanic youths last week in New York State, as well as 11 people killed in Suffolk County, New York last year, including two teens murdered with machetes and baseball bats.
The FBI formed a special task force in 2004 — before President Obama took office — focused on investigating and prosecuting MS-13 members.
“The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
In an interview that aired on Fox & Friends, Mr Trump said his administration has kicked out dangerous immigrants, though he didn’t specify that they were gang members.
“I’m talking about illegal immigrants that were here that caused tremendous crime that have murdered people, raped people; horrible things have happened. They are getting the hell out, or they are going to prison,” he said.
Mr Trump claimed that “we never did anything about it, and now we’re doing something about it.”
Last week, Guatemalan authorities arrested two Salvadorans accused of being Mara leaders, while in neighbouring El Salvador police confiscated money and weapons in a prison controlled by Salvatrucha gang members.
In March, police in Honduras confiscated high-power automatic rifles, grenades, pistols and cash hidden in a prison where Salvatrucha gang members were being held.