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EDITORIAL: Trump recognizes value of high-skilled immigrants

Is Donald Trump softening his stand on legal immigration? If so, that would be a step forward.

The former president has made his views clear on unchecked illegal immigration and a “big, beautiful wall.” Fine. A nation has the right to control its borders.

But there is a distinction between legal and illegal immigration, a reality that many progressives intentionally blur. And Mr. Trump during his first term was also reluctant to increase the supply of workers through legal immigration. Immigration proponents have expressed concern that those in a second Trump administration would again embrace restrictive policies on legal entries.

Last week, however, Mr. Trump signaled otherwise. On the “All-In-Podcast,” hosted by venture capitalists, he floated an idea to allow foreign students attending American universities to remain in the country upon securing a diploma as long as they went through a vetting process.

“What I want to do and what I will do is, you graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically, as part of your diploma, a green card to be able to stay in this country,” Mr. Trump said. “And that includes junior colleges, too. Anybody graduates from a college, you go in there for two years or four years. If you graduate or you get a doctorate degree from a college, you should be able to stay in this country.”

Indeed, to compete in the world economy — and bolster domestic companies — the United States needs high-skilled workers. Homegrown talent is important, of course. But despite an increased emphasis on science and mathematics in high school and college, this country does not produce a surplus of engineers, doctors and other high-skilled professionals. Legal immigration can help fill the gap and boost economic growth and prosperity.

“It’s a form of national masochism,” The Wall Street Journal noted, “to educate these students and then send them away to help other countries surpass” the United States.

Mr. Trump went on about his epiphany. “You need a pool of people to work for your companies,” he said. “You have great companies, and they have to be smart people. You have to be able to recruit these people and keep the people. Somebody graduates at the top of the class, they can’t even make a deal with a company because they don’t think they’re going to be able to stay in the country. That is going to end on day one.”

The Biden illegal immigration mess will no doubt be front and center in Thursday’s debate. It would also be helpful if Mr. Trump continued to emphasize the importance of providing a path for high-skilled foreign talent to contribute to this nation’s prosperity.

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