Trump planning to ease immigration restrictions on skilled workers as wall battle rages

Policy wonks in pro-business think tanks across Washington probably wet their pants Friday morning when President Trump hinted that an immigration policy that many of them have long advocated for could soon become a reality.

In a tweet, Trump said changes are coming to US immigration policy that would simplify the application process and clear a “pathway to citizenship” for H1-B visa holders – a cohort of workers, including doctors and software engineers, who are highly educated and work in highly specialized industries.

Trump has long claimed that he wants a larger share of immigrants coming to the US to consist of skilled workers. And by making it easier for skilled workers to stay and settle in the US, he can simultaneously placate Democrats and pro-business Republicans.

Health-care advocates have long complained that the H1-B visa program should be reformed to make it easier for more doctors to come to – and stay in – the US. Silicon Valley firms have long hired engineers from abroad and groaned when visa issues made it difficult for them to stay.

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Should Trump follow through on this promise, it could also strengthen the president’s position in the border wall debate by making it more difficult for Trump’s opponents to paint him as irrationally opposed to immigration in a blanket sense.