Making sense of the latest immigration order

This is how we, in a country with by far the largest foreign-born population in absolute numbers and share, go about making immigration policy.

On June 22 the administration continued and expanded until year end a halt on some of the most important classes of temporary visas, effective today (June 24). What to make of this?

The United States is the only country that has used the pandemic to restrict immigration expressly on economic, rather than public health, grounds.

The earlier April 22 order stopped some green card processing, on the grounds that green cards bring in people who compete with American citizens for jobs. The order is not backed up with any analysis. This order may have shut down over 300,000 green cards from being issued in the next 12 months, compared to about one million green cards issued in each recent years.

The June 22 order targets temporary visas, such as H-1Bs. Today the Wall Street Journal wrote, “….the vast majority of H-1Bs—which are capped at 85,000 a year—are for computer programming. The unemployment rate for these occupations was 2.5% in May compared to 13.3% for the entire economy. The Labor Department’s JOLTS survey found 122,000 information industry job openings in April, slightly more than the year before.”

Two things worth noting.

The executive branch can make up the facts and assessments as it goes along. No agency of the Executive Branch or the Congress is tasked to provide on-going assessment of the impact of immigration on labor markets. This has applied to every past administration.

And, Trump is following on with Obama’s immigration policy-making, which is to use executive orders to make sweeping changes in policy that should be in the scope of Congress.

Congress was paralyzed over immigration policy during the first two decades of the 21st century. At least three bipartisan efforts in the Senate, including in 2007, 2013 and 2017, failed. Especially after 2010, the politics of immigration became polarized.

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