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‘Buy American, Hire American:’ Trump to sign executive order targeting visa immigration program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump hopes to revive the economic populism that helped drive his election campaign on Tuesday, signing an order in politically important Wisconsin to tighten rules on technology companies bringing in highly skilled foreign workers.

At the headquarters of a big-name tool manufacturer, Trump signed an order aimed at curbing what his administration says are abuses in a visa program. Dubbed “Buy American, Hire American,” the directive follows a series of recent Trump reversals on economic policies.

The president is to sign the directive at Snap-on Inc. in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a state he narrowly carried in November on the strength of support from white, working-class voters. Trump currently has only a 41 percent approval rating in the state.

He is targeting the H-1B visa program, which the White House says undercuts American workers by bringing in large numbers of cheaper, foreign workers, driving down wages.

The tech industry has argued that the H-1B program is needed because it encourages students to stay in the U.S. after getting degrees in high-tech specialties — and companies can't always find enough American workers with the skills they need.

Trump has traveled to promote his agenda less than his recent predecessors. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he wanted to visit "a company that builds American-made tools with American workers."

The new order would direct U.S. agencies to propose rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the program. They would also be asked to offer changes so that H-1B visas are awarded to the "most-skilled or highest-paid applicants," said administration officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity despite the president's frequent criticism of the use of anonymous sources.

The officials said the order also seeks to strengthen requirements that American-made products be used in certain federal construction projects, as well as in various federal grant-funded transportation projects. The commerce secretary will review how to close loopholes in existing rules and provide recommendations to the president.

The order specifically asks the secretary to review waivers of these rules in free-trade agreements. The waivers could be renegotiated or revoked if they are not benefiting the United States.