Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump responded to series of questions about science policy, including two questions on immigration.
What the answers reveal is this: Clinton and Trump are as divided as night and day on H-1B reforms. Trump supports reform and U.S. worker protections; Clinton simply avoided answering the questions.
But both candidates support the idea of making it possible for foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools to remain in this country. The only difference is that Clinton outlines a way to accomplish this policy objective, and Trump does not.
The questions were put together by ScienceDebate.org, a group representing dozens of professional scientific organizations. The candidates' answers were released Tuesday.
In regard to immigration, two questions were asked. The first was a general question about the role of immigration in science, and the second asked the candidates to respond to the "recent controversy over employment and the H-1B visa program."
The second part of this question goes to the heart of current events over the replacement of U.S. IT workers.
Clinton didn't answer the H-1B question, which is consistent. The H-1B issue isn't addressed in her platform or in her speeches.
For his part, Trump said that when U.S. workers are pushed out of jobs and replaced by cheaper labor, "something is wrong." He wants the visa used for filling positions that can’t be filled by U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
In Clinton’s response to ScienceDebate's question about broader immigration reforms and science, the candidate reiterated her support for "stapling" green cards, or offering permanent residency, to foreign students who earn STEM graduate degrees. Trump, who has also talked about the need to retain foreign graduates at U.S. universities, didn't address the green card issue in relation to science.
Clinton's decision not to answer the H-1B question will likely fuel belief that she is okay with the current policy. Clinton has a strong base of financial support in Silicon Valley.
In his response, Trump reaffirmed his support for H-1B reform, but didn't address permanent immigration in relation to STEM. Trump's views on the latter aspect of the issue are not as clear as Clinton's.
In an earlier candidate debate in Detroit, Trump said he could see the need for keeping "talented people in the country," and in doing so muddied his H-1B position. His campaign quickly issued a statement vowing to pursue H-1B reforms, and his answer to the ScienceDebate question is consistent with a position supporting visa reform.
But Trump's response to the broader immigration question and STEM is similar to Clinton's idea.
Trump said that when someone is educated, legally, in the U.S., "we should let them stay if they want to contribute to the economy." Trump doesn’t suggest how that should be accomplished, but Clinton’s green-card stapling plan is an obvious approach.