June 24, 2020

Immigration Restrictions

“The Trump administration said Monday that it was extending a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and adding many temporary work visas to the freeze, including those used heavily by technology companies and multinational corporations.” AP News

Read the executive order here. White House

See past issues

From the Left

The left opposes the executive order, arguing that immigrants are vital to the success of the US economy.

“Of all American-based Nobel Prize winners, over 40% have been immigrants… The most recent government data shows that in 2018 almost 135,000 scientific doctoral students, about 31% of the total, and over 20,000 postdoctoral researchers -- 53% of all scientific postgrad researchers -- were in the US on temporary visas…

“Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipelines have not been sufficient to kindle the interest of American students. While our educational system and colleges and universities need to do better at building the kind of talent we need, we have come to rely on immigrant ingenuity. Without their work, we risk both the intellectual and the economic decline of our academic scientific labs.”
Ushma S. Neill, CNN

Tech executives tell me the order couldn’t come at a worse time… ‘My gut reaction was, I cannot believe that that the administration is doing this at this time,’ Doug Merritt, chief executive of the big data company Splunk, told me in an interview. Merritt warned the order could have a detrimental impact on innovation at a critical time during the pandemic, possibly impacting improving technology in health care… Amazon slammed the move as ‘short-sighted’…

“More than half of the top American tech companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, tech investor Mary Meeker said in her 2018 report on the future of the Internet.”
Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post

“The administration seems to be using the virus to justify an existing anti-immigration agenda, given that it was targeting people coming to the United States on temporary work visas before the coronavirus hit… ‘This is not a COVID-19 response or an economic response,’ Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement following the announcement. ‘It’s the exploitation of a pandemic to institute divisive policies and reshape immigration law, while superseding Congress.’“
Noah Lanard, Mother Jones

“The new order also undermines the president’s repeated claims that he wants the most qualified foreigners, particularly international students, to contribute to the U.S. Even some of his allies highlighted the inconsistency: ‘Legal immigration is a positive for the American economy,’ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote on Twitter. ‘Like all Americans, I want to recreate the strong economy we had before coronavirus… President Trump built it once and he can build it again, but not if the tools that helped create the strongest economy in generations are not available.’”
Akbar Shahid Ahmed and Jessica Schulberg, Huffington Post

Some note that “There is evidence that worker visas, and particularly the H-1B program, have enabled some employers to replace higher-wage U.S. workers with cheaper foreign labor…Yet Congress hasn’t killed these programs (and in fact has expanded some of them) because they address a real need in the labor market. In science and tech fields, for example, research suggests that there’s a mismatch between the skills demanded in certain fields and those held by U.S. workers, resulting in a surplus of workers in some areas and a shortage in others…

“It’s also worth noting that the worker visa programs require employers to use them only as a last resort to fill jobs that they could not fill with Americans. The Trump administration…  pledged to improve enforcement of those terms, which is the right way to get at the problems that exist… Recessions invariably displace workers whose skills fall out of demand. And one thing this country doesn’t seem to be very good at is retraining people to keep pace with those changes. In the meantime, though, it won’t help the U.S. economy recover if businesses that are trying to reopen or expand can’t do so because they can’t find the workers they need.”
Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

The right is generally skeptical about the executive order, arguing that it is unlikely to create jobs.

The right is generally skeptical about the executive order, arguing that it is unlikely to create jobs.

“The vast majority of H-1Bs—which are capped at 85,000 a year—are for computer programming. The unemployment rate for these occupations was 2.5% in May compared to 13.3% for the entire economy…

“Qualcomm sought about 1,300 H-1B visas in 2019, and Samsung’s semiconductor subsidiary in California sought 120. Would President Trump prefer that Samsung hire workers to design cutting-edge chips in South Korea? Although his order exempts foreign workers whom the secretary of State or Homeland Security determines to be ‘in the national interest,’ this will lead to bureaucratic mediation and political favoritism like his steel tariffs. Keeping out high-skilled foreign workers will hamstring U.S. innovation, aiding China’s effort to dominate artificial intelligence, semiconductors and biotech.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Foreign-born workers account for a fifth of STEM workers with a bachelor's degree and more than half of those with a Ph.D. And in a paper released last April, researchers Sari Pekkala Kerr and William Kerr find that immigrants account for about a quarter of U.S. entrepreneurship and innovation. Immigration from Asia is a key driver, with Chinese and Indian ethnic inventors accounting for 22 percent of U.S. patents in 2018… You can't have an economically vibrant America without global talent coming here and thriving

“Past government efforts to restrict immigration during downturns give little reason to expect success this time around. During the Great Depression, there were state and local efforts to repatriate Mexican workers, with some 400,000 to 500,000 eventually sent home. But the places that lost their Mexican workers either did no better than other cities and regions, or did worse… Similarly, the early 1960s exclusion of some 500,000 seasonal Mexican workers to boost wages, mostly in the farm sector, also failed.”
James Pethokoukis, The Week

Others argue, “Critics may claim that Trump’s order bars visas for jobs that Americans can’t fill, but in fact, companies are not required to show there is a labor shortage before hiring a foreign worker. All they must do is sign a statement that the immigrant will not displace a U.S. citizen for 90 days after their arrival. Stories abound of companies abusing this rule. In any case, it is surely political folly to bring foreigners in to work when so many Americans are out of work

“If I were the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, I would not want to have to defend importing foreigners to work in the United States right now. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll from late April found that 65 percent of Americans supported temporarily pausing immigration because of the covid-19 pandemic. This included 67 percent of independents, 61 percent of non-whites and even 49 percent of Democrats.”
Henry Olsen, Washington Post

“Whether one agrees with this action or not, it is a temporary measure for an issue that is — like immigrant working conditions and guest-worker mobility — a perennial concern. Addressing these issues permanently will require a longer-term fix… There is a better way. The government should scrap the lottery in favor of an auction system, in which employers can bid on a capped number of guest-worker visas…

“With employers bidding competitively for H-1B visas, the option of entering the lottery in pursuit of inexpensive foreign labor would be foreclosed. Employers would have an incentive to look harder for skilled native workers at prevailing wages if they knew they would face stiff competition from other firms in the market for H-1B visas. Only employers who truly need foreign talent to fill essential gaps in personnel would be likely to bid high enough to win…

“Introducing an auction and competitive secondary markets to the visa process would mitigate concerns that guest-worker programs undercut the jobs and earnings of natives.”
Brandon Fuller, National Review

A libertarian's take

“The impulse to close immigration to protect jobs for American citizens is called the lump of labor fallacy, which is a fundamental misconception that there is a fixed amount of work in a society. Believers in this fallacy apply it to immigration by arguing that any job held by an immigrant could be held by an American citizen, but this just simply isn’t true. The number of jobs available depends on myriad economic factors and is never stable…

“Furthermore, H-1B migrants likely saved many American jobs during the COVID-19 recession. A huge percentage of them work in IT – which has been essential in transitioning Americans to remote work. Without their contributions, many Americans who can keep their jobs by working remotely would be out of a job. This is exactly the time to boost the number of IT workers in the United States through migration, not to cut it.”
Alex Nowrasteh, CATO Institute

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