Is Biden right to let Trump-era immigrant worker visa restrictions expire?
- The number of illegal immigrants in the US dropped to 10.3 million in 2019, a 12% decrease since 2010.
- According to US Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrant apprehensions have been increasing for the last 10 years, and reached a high of 96,974 in February 2021.
- There were a total of 44.9 million immigrants in the US in 2019. That year, 28.4 million were a part of the US workforce.
- President Biden signed an order letting Trump’s ban on work visas expire on Wednesday, March 31. The previous ban blocked immigrant workers from the tech industry, au pairs, researchers, and seasonal workers. However, Biden still allows Title 42 for migrant removal.
- Tech giant companies pushed Biden to make the decision as soon as he was inaugurated because they argued the ban “hurt US companies.”
The visa restrictions that former President Trump put into effect targeted a variety of visas, including those of students, researchers, and executives transferring to their employers’ US headquarters. While restricting this type of travel may have been needed during the height of the pandemic, maintaining these restrictions is unjustifiable now that vaccines are being distributed. The people affected by these restrictions still need to come to the US to conduct business and resume their education. President Biden is doing the country a favor by allowing the visa restrictions to expire because it will push the United States a bit closer to returning to a pre-pandemic normal.
Rather than restricting immigrant workers, businesses should be forced to treat all workers--immigrant and native-born--alike. Because immigrants accept lower pay and more mistreatment than native workers, most companies hire immigrants over Americans. Therefore holding companies responsible for treating all employees the same would decrease the favoritism towards immigrant workers.
Regardless, immigrants are actually a benefit for the US economy and society. The New York Times wrote an article in 2019 explaining how immigrants actually help the US economy because “the growth rate of the economy comes from two parts: income growth per capita and population growth.” By driving competition into the mix, immigrant workers are a catalyst for more hardworking American employees who value their jobs to create better products and services.
Finally, aside from the economic benefits, immigrants infuse diverse ideas and culture into the melting pot of American society--something perhaps much more important.
Biden is wrong to let Trump's immigrant worker visa restrictions expire. For someone who campaigned with the slogan of “Build Back Better” for his economic recovery plan, Biden has a curious way of showing it now. As millions of Americans are sitting at home unemployed due to COVID-related business closures and layoffs, Biden thinks it's a good idea to import foreign workers to fill America’s jobs. Aside from this idea's utter tone-deafness, increasing foreign competition for these job vacancies will have a depressing effect on wages and keep unemployed citizens on the sidelines. This is the antithesis of building our economy back “better.”
Aside from the negative economic impact Biden's proposed immigrant worker visa-related action will bring, it's also at odds with solving two other nagging problems for his new administration: the immigration crisis at the southern border and the response to the much-hyped Coronavirus pandemic. As illegal immigrants stream across the US/Mexico border, Biden thinks it's a good idea to supplement this surge with additional foreign worker reinforcements. And in an environment of lockdowns, mandatory mask-wearing, physical distancing, hand sanitizing, and general hysteria about COVID-19 case numbers, Biden wants to take in more foreigners.
When President Trump initiated restrictions on foreign visas in the early stages of the COVID-19 response, it was part of his plan to safeguard jobs for American workers; an extension of his hallmark plan to keep “America First.” Biden's plan to let the restrictions expire can politely be described as keeping America second, or third, or worse.