Banning Foreign Workers Won’t Bring America Back
(Bloomberg Opinion) - President Trump has announced that tens of thousands of foreign workers will be banned from entering the U.S. by the end of the year. It takes longer to repair the damage.
The new regulation will lift a number of non-immigration visas for seasonal workers, technology workers, business executives and cultural exchange visitors. According to the impartial Institute for Migration Policy, at least 167,000 workers and their family members will be excluded from entry in the next six months. The directive also extends a two-month-old ban on issuing green cards to foreigners who live outside the United States and affect tens of thousands of legally permanent family members.
Given the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, Trump argues that foreign workers are "an unusual threat to the employment of American workers". However, there is little evidence that immigrants are crowding out local workers, especially in specialty areas where labor shortages were high prior to the Covid 19 recession.
Suspending the H-1B Visa program, which allows 85,000 professionals annually, mainly from the technology sector, will harm innovation, reduce entrepreneurship and hinder employment growth. As these immigrants increase corporate productivity and general consumer demand, each H-1B visa holder is responsible for creating almost two additional jobs in the United States.
Instead of waiting for the ban to be lifted, companies that rely on foreign tech talent could move their business to another location. Foreign graduates from U.S. colleges and universities are often hired on an H-1B visa, making the ban difficult for schools to attract and retain international students, and deprive them of income because many struggle to survive. In the meantime, Trump's exposure to another category of visa, the L-1, will prevent investments by overseas multinational companies in the U.S. because they cannot move executives.
Immigration policy should aim to promote national prosperity and protect the interests of US workers. With this in mind, some adjustments to the H-1B program would make sense - for example, issuing visas to companies that pay high wages to foreign workers, thereby limiting their incentive to undercut US workers' wages. However, such changes should be part of a comprehensive reform to prioritize skills and increase immigration overall.
The presidential order does the opposite: it throttles the pipeline of skilled workers who would drive innovation and growth. The recovery from the current crisis would be slow and painful. Closing America's doors to foreign talent only makes matters worse.
Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial team.
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