Trump extends ban on foreign workers

Yesterday, President Trump renewed and broadened the immigration suspension he issued in April. The updated order keeps in place until the end of the year his limited suspension of immigrant visas. In addition, it suspends a number of foreign work-visa programs.

Trump’s latest measure makes great sense. As Mark Krikorian points out, there are 20 million unemployed Americans, and the jobless rate is more than triple what it was before the Wuhan coronavirus virus hit our shores, and quadruple for immigrants.

Yet, industry lobbyists have pushed for the continued importation of foreign labor. Trump did well to resist their entreaties. His proclamation states:

American workers compete against foreign nationals for jobs in every sector of our economy, including against millions of aliens who enter the United States to perform temporary work. Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy. But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.

Trump’s order suspends entry of people on H-1B (“skilled” workers) and L (intra-company transferee) visas, plus most of those admitted on J (cultural exchange) and H-2B (unskilled seasonal non-farm workers) visas. The administration estimates that this will mean a reduction of perhaps half a million work visas.

There are exceptions to the guest worker suspension, but Krikorian says they are narrow. For instance, he notes, “the only exceptions to the suspension of the H-2B visa (which the president’s own resorts often use to import housekeepers and the like) will be for those who ‘provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain.’” This exception only covers 10 to 15 percent of the H-2B visas.

Trump also made an exception for health care workers, but only those caring for coronavirus patients or doing COVID-19 research.

There is no exemption for au pairs (they gain entry as “cultural exchange” under the J visa). Their inclusion in the suspension “is a small but important signal that the system isn’t entirely rigged in favor of the well-off,” says Krikorian.

He concludes that “given the powerful moneyed interests demanding continued importation of foreign workers — and the many influential administration officials who share those views — Monday’s announcement was a real win” for American workers.

Robert VerBruggen offers his thoughts on the president’s order here.

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