'The H-1B programme is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay'
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Friday stoked another controversy when he said he has softened his stance on H-1B visas for highly-skilled workers, but took a U-turn soon by vowing to abolish the visa programme, popular among Indian techies.
"I'm changing. I'm changing.
“We need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can't do it, we'll get them in. But, and we do need in Silicon Valley, we absolutely have to have," Trump, 69, said during the Republican presidential debate in Detroit.
Responding to a question on his views on immigration in particular highly skilled people, Trump said America needs highly skilled professionals.
Trump's website, however, calls for eliminating the H-1-B class of visas that allow companies to import high-skilled workers from countries like India.
"We do need highly skilled, and one of the biggest problems we have is people go to the best colleges," Trump said.
"They'll go to Harvard, they'll go to Stanford, they'll go to Wharton, as soon as they're finished they'll get shoved out.
"They want to stay in this country," he said.
"They want to stay here desperately, they're not able to stay here.
“For that purpose, we absolutely have to be able to keep the brain power in this country," Trump said in response to a question.
"So you abandoning the position on your website?. . ." he was asked.
"I'm changing it, and I'm softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country," Trump said.
However, within an hour of his statement, which was interpreted differently by immigration experts, Trump clarified his position.
"The H-1B programme is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay," Trump said.
"I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements," he said in his statement.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio immediately slammed Trump for his policy change.
"Tonight Donald Trump finally took an actual position," Rubio said in a statement provided by his campaign.
"But as soon as the debate was over, his handlers made him reverse himself. The Republican nominee cannot be somebody who is totally clueless on so many issues, including his signature issue," he said.
Image: Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump (centre) talks with rival candidates Marco Rubio (left) and Ted Cruz (right) at the conclusion of the US Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters