Roy Beck's picture

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  by  Roy Beck

I'm sure you have heard a bewildering amount of descriptions of what the President's Proclamation will do to the number of permanent immigrants and temporary foreign workers coming into the country the next few months.

Let's walk calmly through the details.

First, I want to chastise those media and political critics of the President who have decried his immigration pause as illegitimate because it isn't an effective way to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. That is a knowingly deceptive straw man argument. Pres. Trump is not claiming his Proclamation is mainly about health safety but about being sure that, when jobs start to open up again, it is Americans and not newly imported immigrants who fill those jobs.

As I've told many reporters this week, I do think the President has done a service by forcing into the public debate the question of who should get the next jobs, and by answering his question the way most Americans would answer: The next jobs of this country should go to the tens of millions of Americans who have recently been thrown out of work.

NO CUTS IN TEMPORARY WORKERS

The Proclamation has no effect on H-1 B visas (skilled workers), H-2B visas (landscapers, hospitality, other less skilled seasonal workers), H-1A visas (ag), or any other of the myriad guest worker categories.

It is important to note that Pres. Trump has been talking about a pause in "immigration."

But temporary foreign workers are NOT immigrants.

So, the President technically is not backtracking on his promise to pause immigration when he allows guest worker visas to continue.

Nonetheless, I'm sure the unemployed American hospitality and landscaping workers will not be reassured by that fact when they see new foreign guest workers arriving to take scarce jobs in their occupations.

CHAIN MIGRATION & LOTTERY PAUSED -- for 60 days

The two most egregious permanent immigration categories that add hundreds of thousands of lifetime work permits for foreign citizens each year are the Visa Lottery and the chain migration of extended relatives of previous immigrants. (These are relatives beyond the nuclear family of spouse and minor children.)

Over the next two months, American workers are to be spared having to compete for new jobs with new people receiving green cards in these two categories.

The problem is that once the "pause" is lifted, everybody who missed out on green cards during the two months will be able to get them later this year.

Again, I feel there is value in at least re-establishing from the White House what the Barbara Jordan Commission decided in the 1990s: that chain migration and the Visa Lottery hurt vulnerable American workers while serving no national interest.

But the numerical effect of foreign competition added through the Lottery and chain migration by the end of this year looks to be little changed.

The Proclamation allows a continuation of new green cards for spouses and minor children (including new adoptees) of U.S. citizens.

SOME -- OR MOST -- EMPLOYMENT-BASED GREEN CARDS PAUSED

The President's Proclamation exempts a lot of the types of workers who get the permanent work permits that are set aside for employers each year.

Depending on the level of fraud, there may be very little slowdown in employment-based immigration, or there could be a lot.

Still able to secure permanent green cards for new immigrants are employers who are procuring foreign "health care" workers, which includes not only the commonly assumed nurses, doctors and technicians, but also therapists, home caregivers and many others.

American doctors, nurses and other hospital workers being laid off at hospitals across the country due to the strange dynamics of the pandemic can only hope that their interests are at the front of the minds of those who give out the "exempted" lifetime work permits during this "pause."

Furthermore, employers who can claim the immigrants they are importing are "food supply" workers are also exempted in the Proclamation. This would appear to be not just a loophole but a vast abyss of loopholes. People who stock grocery store shelves? What are we talking about here? It is difficult to imagine many jobs in transporting, assembling, distributing food that cannot be filled from within the more than 20 million Americans who have recently lost jobs.

Especially galling is the exemption for EB-5 visas which allow foreign citizens to buy a green card with a business investment in the United States of as little as $900,000.

'PAUSE' COULD BE EXPANDED

One hopeful section of Pres. Trump's Proclamation states that although the "pause" is for 60 days, " the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation." This can happen "whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation," which is 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 23, 2020.

Another hopeful section raises the possibility that the "pause" could be expanded to include guest worker categories, which are officially called "nonimmigrant programs":

Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers."

Journalists this week have routinely asked me when I personally think the "pause" should be ended.

My answer has been that it made no sense to have a permanent immigration program of more than one million a year BEFORE the pandemic and that it certainly makes no sense to renew that rate of new permanent foreign workers before the official unemployment rate falls back down in the 3% level.

Why should the U.S. jobs be re-opened to mass immigration while there are still Americans waiting in line?

On the other hand, there is only so much the President can do, or should do, under the Constitution. In the end, Americans must persuade Congress to make immigration policy serve the needs of American workers, or elect a new Congress that will do it.

WONDERFUL PRINCIPLES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE NEED MATCHING ACTIONS

How many decades have some of us fought to hear the kind of logic and ethical principles from the White House that we heard today from Pres. Trump, such as this:

By pausing immigration, we'll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important. It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad.

That is the value principle held by perhaps three-quarters of all Americans, according to various polls over the last week.

Here are more words from the President that we must hold up as goals for the Administration to match with effective action:

In the administration of our Nation's immigration system, we must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor.

I have determined that, without intervention, the United States faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand.

Excess labor supply affects all workers and potential workers, but it is particularly harmful to workers at the margin between employment and unemployment, who are typically "last in" during an economic expansion and "first out" during an economic contraction.

In recent years, these workers have been disproportionately represented by historically disadvantaged groups, including African Americans and other minorities, those without a college degree, and the disabled.

Unfortunately, the corporate lobbyists and other immigration expansionists in the White House persuaded the President to significantly water down the Proclamation that was supposed to carry out those lofty spoken principles.

It will be up to the American people to provide a counter-balance in the White House deliberations as the next weeks unfold. As always, we will be providing the free tools for you to do that.

Thanks to all of you who have been taking action these last few weeks pressing for an immigration pause during this unemployment crisis.

ROY BECK is the President & Founder of NumbersUSA

Updated: Thu, May 7th 2020 @ 11:40am EDT

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