President Trump plans to sign an executive order in Wisconsin on Tuesday that the White House says will make it harder for tech companies to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor, and will strengthen rules barring foreign contractors from bidding on government projects, according to senior administration officials.
The officials, in a background call with reporters, said Trump will direct the Departments of Labor, Justice, State and Homeland Security to crack down on fraud and abuse in guest-worker programs by issuing new immigration rules.
The president will also direct the Department of Commerce to review federal procurement rules and trade agreements with a view to putting American firms at an advantage when it comes to winning contracts.
The officials pitched the twin directives as benefiting working- and middle-class Americans who have suffered for too long under unfair trade and immigration rules.
“This is the policy that ensures no one gets left behind in America anymore – that we protect our industry from unfair competition, favor the products produced by our fellow citizens and make certain that when jobs open those jobs are given to American workers first,” the White House said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear how much the administration could accomplish without cooperation from Congress.
“Sweeping changes are going to require congressional action,” said Lynden Melmed, an immigration attorney who had served as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services chief counsel within the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
However, industry experts said Trump’s executive order was a good first step to protecting the U.S. defense industrial base, and U.S. firms that do business with the federal government.
“It’s one of the few presidential exertions in recent time, that holds out the hope of saving U.S. industrial jobs,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant and the chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute in Arlington.
Although Trump vacillated on the question of whether he supported the H-1B visa program as a candidate, he said repeatedly that he wanted American firms and American workers to carry out federal projects.
The executive order prepares to make good on that promise after a series of reversals by the new president on essential questions of international economic policy. On Friday, Trump’s treasury secretary declined to officially accuse China of manipulating its currency, which Trump had pledged to do on his first day in office.
A draft of a letter from the administration to Congress obtained by The Washington Post and other media organizations last month called for only minor changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the president once declared “the worst trade deal maybe ever.”