‘Visas exist because companies have succeeded in creating this narrative that there are a shortage of workers…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would temporarily suspend immigration during the coronavirus pandemic may be a step in the right direction, but according to a leading immigration-enforcement watchdog, a more long-term solution may be in order.
To help American workers recover from the economic shutdown that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. government should curb legal and illegal immigration to provide additional jobs, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
Millions of Americans are out of work as a result of the recent business closures and shelter-in-place orders, and the federal government has a responsibility to see them re-employed, said Jessica Vaughan, CIS’s director of policy studies, during a panel on Tuesday.
One way to provide incentives for re-hiring is to remove other incentives that currently encourage Americans to hire cheaper, foreign labor, she said.
There are four streams of workers to which American companies currently look, Vaughan explained: The first is through legal immigration, which brings nearly 1 million people to the U.S. every year. The second stream is illegal immigration, which brings several hundred thousands more. The last two streams depend on temporary visas and permits that eventually become permanent.
The U.S. government might not be able to control legal and illegal immigration, but it does have the ability to slow down the latter two programs, Vaughan said.
“If these programs were curbed, it would almost instantaneously create tens of thousands of jobs for Americans,” she said.
Those who argue Americans wouldn’t be willing to do those jobs aren’t arguing in “good faith,” according to David North, a CIS fellow.
American workers were already willing to do manual labor jobs, and now that the coronavirus has left many of them unemployed, they will be even more eager to get back to work—regardless of what that work might be, North said during Tuesday’s panel.
“Visas exist because companies have succeeded in creating this narrative that there are a shortage of workers and they need to reach abroad to fill these spots. They’re just trying to get cheap labor for white collar jobs,” Vaughan added. “This result has been a de facto settlement, which has displaced American workers and contributed to the stagnation of wages in American industries.”
The Trump administration could also eliminate the Optional Practical Training program, which encourages American companies to hire foreign college graduates instead of American college graduates.
“The employer is very likely to tilt to the foreign worker because the OPT program is subsidized and it will likely save them some money,” North explained. “This was a problem before the virus, and it will likely be even worse now.”
Because the executive branch created the OPT program under former President George W. Bush’s administration, the executive branch under Trump could just as easily dismantle or slow down this program, North said.
“It’s very easy to put the brakes on if our government decided that it wants to do something about this program and the way it has affected Americans,” Vaughan added. “So we need a conceptual overhaul for why we have these programs in the first place.”