US Customs and Border Patrol photo

Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday extending what was a 60-day moratorium on granting green cards through the end of 2020. It also greatly limited most forms of legal immigration for workers to the US, because, after all, there's an election issue he needs to flog, regardless of near-universal opposition from the business community. The restrictions will only apply to new applicants; legal migrants already in the US would not be affected. Yet.

The new restrictions would apply to a wide range of work visas, most notably the H1-B visa program that allows hiring skilled employees, largely in technology fields. It would also freeze H-4 visas, which go to spouses of foreign workers, and L visas, which allow companies to transfer international employees, often executives, to work in their US operations.

In addition, the order would suspend most H2-B visas for seasonal workers, like landscapers and restaurant workers, and J visas for "cultural exchange" workers like camp counselors and au pairs. Exceptions would be allowed for seasonal agricultural workers, as well as for medical workers who are directly involved in care and research related to COVID-19.

We're betting that once Trump realizes he's just banned seasonal workers from his own hotels and resorts, he'll find a national-security reason to exempt them, too.


As the New York Times notes, the restrictions on legal immigrant workers are a longtime dream of Trump's immigration sturmbannf├╝hrer Stephen Miller, who was calling for a purge of foreign workers even before the coronavirus pandemic. The piece notes that Trump and Miller had originally wanted to end virtually all immigration, full stop, back in April, because what a convenient excuse, but "bowed to pressure from the business community to avoid imposing limits on the worker visas," at least until now.

Most business interests, from big tech companies to the far-rightwing US Chamber of Commerce, said the visa restrictions would be far more likely to slow the economic recovery from the coronavirus shutdown than to boost American jobs. Chamber President Thomas Donohue told the Washington Post,

"Putting up a 'not welcome' sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won't help our country, it will hold us back," said Chamber President Thomas Donohue. "Restrictive changes to our nation's immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation."

We are particularly in love with Reuters this morning, for its framing of comments by an unnamed "senior administration official" who briefed reporters in a conference call yesterday, claiming the visa restrictions would create 525,000 job openings for American workers:

The official, who did not explain how the administration arrived at that figure, said the move was geared at "getting Americans back to work as quickly as possible."

The Reuters piece also notes the official said freezing green cards "freed up roughly 50,000 jobs for Americans, but did not provide details." That's good skeptical reporting, thank you very much.

The whole premise that restricting foreign workers will create half a million jobs for Americans is deeply flawed, which is to say, pure bullshit, as actual experts on labor and immigration pointed out to Reuters:

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, estimated that the new ruling would block 219,000 foreign workers through the rest of the year. [...]

"The administration is making the assumption that these companies did not already look at the U.S. labor market, which most of them do before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in foreign workers."

Mitch Wexler, a managing partner at law firm Fragomen, said the order would hurt his social media and wireless communications clients and other tech companies.

Employers "wouldn't pay a lot of money to file these applications and hire lawyers like me if they could hire an American for these positions," he said.

But don't worry, with the work visas gone, the firms will have no choice but to hire whatever Americans they can scrape up, unless of course they can't. A study released last fall found restricting H1-B visas didn't lead to more hiring of US workers. Instead, the restrictions meant companies just moved more operations to their non-US locations, so they could hire the workers they wanted.

Foreign affiliate employment increased as a direct response to increasingly stringent restrictions on H-1B visas. This effect is driven on the extensive and intensive side; firms were more likely to open new foreign affiliates abroad in response, and employment increased at existing foreign affiliates. The effect is strongest among R&D-intensive firms in industries where services could more easily be offshored.

Hooray for Donald Trump's plan to save the American economy by shooting it in the foot and driving more jobs out of the country!

Reuters points out that the "immediate effects" of the new restrictions may be limited, since most US visa offices at embassies and consulates around the world are still closed because of coronavirus concerns.

In addition to hurting the economy with these new restrictions, the Washington Post reports, the administration is also rolling out another measure aimed at increasing pain for people who fled persecution and violence in their home countries. As with Reuters, bonus points to WaPo for pointing out just how insane that is:

Trump administration officials also said Monday that they would issue new regulations denying work authorization to asylum seekers with pending claims for one year, arguing that the humanitarian program is being exploited by migrants seeking better work opportunities in the United States. Administration officials have not said how asylum applicants will be expected to support themselves financially while they await a court decision.

Well if if we make asylum-seekers unable to support themselves, they'll clearly be drags on the economy, so maybe we can just deport them as undesirables! Yet another creative solution from the Trump administration where as ever, the cruelty is the point.

[Reuters / NYT / WaPo / Forbes]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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