After months of building a support base by promoting a unique brand of xenophobia against outsiders, Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the US president election, adopted a softer take on the immigration and employment policy debate. In a recent interview with Fox News, he made a concession for one class of outsiders: Indians.

Asked during the interview to clarify his stance on issuing H-1B visas to immigrant students, Trump responded, “Whether we like that or not, they pay, et cetera, et cetera but we educate a lot of people, very smart people. We need those people in the country.”

He then went on to add, with characteristic eloquence, “They cannot come into the country. You know, they go to Harvard, they are first in their class and they’re from India, they go back to India and they set up companies and they make a fortune and they employ lots of people and all of that.”

Not surprisingly, the announcement was greeted with delight by Trump’s Indian support base. A large chunk of H-1B visas – meant for foreign professionals in specialty occupations – are issued to Indians, including 86% of the visas issued for the technology industry. It strengthened Trump’s curious popularity among Indian-Americans. Hindus for Trump, a Facebook page dedicated to the Republican frontrunner, depicts him sitting on a star-spangled lotus with a large Om written across it. Several mainstream media outlets have reported his statements as a sort of ringing endorsement of the desi work ethic.

I don’t buy it, though.

Selective racism

For starters, it’s really difficult to take anything the man says seriously, mostly due to his inability to stick to one side of any debate for more than five minutes. On the issue of H-1B visas alone, Trump has flip-flopped so much that it is impossible to tell his official stand.

On the one hand, he has warned of the perils of immigrants and the jobs they steal from hardworking Americans. He strongly urged scrapping H-1B visa extension, and on his campaign website, he says its expansion would “decimate” American jobs. On the other hand, when asked about H1B expansion, he said he was changing his take on it: “I’m softening the position because we have to have talented people in the country.” Soon after that, in the Florida debate, he claimed that while he himself has employed immigrants on the H-1B programme, it doesn’t benefit American workers.

Secondly, Trump’s changing position doesn’t bode as well for Indian immigrants as many seem to think – especially when coupled with his other policy suggestions. He has previously said that he intends to raise the wages paid to H1B employees, “forcing companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the US instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas”. He also supports limiting green cards for foreign workers.

Thirdly, and more importantly, Trump’s statements are still racist – they’re just selectively so. Limiting work visas to a certain demographic of immigrants isn’t an inclusive policy. The idea that some foreigners are worth welcoming and others aren’t is slightly horrific, especially when you realise that Donald Trump could be the person making the distinction between the two.

There is no reason to celebrate the fact that Trump is welcoming Indian immigrants, at least for now, when he’s made it clear that immigrants of a particular socio-economic class – whether Indian or not – are not welcome in the US. Supporting Trump’s views because they benefit us, while simultaneously dismissing so many other communities and ethnicities, is the height of self-centredness.