We can’t tell you for certain whose interests are served by President Donald Trump’s latest executive order on immigration, which took effect Wednesday and suspends many new work visas through the end of the year. But we can easily tell you whose aren’t — those of American businesses and industry, and thus, of Americans who benefit from those companies’ innovation and success:
• “Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back.” (That’s from U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue.)
• “We oppose this, especially H1B visas. Those are engineering and science. The U.S. just doesn’t produce enough of those people to fill those jobs.” (From Shaye Mandle, CEO of Medical Alley, a trade group in Minnesota.)
• “In my experience, these skillsets are net job creators. Visa reform makes sense, but this is too broad.” (From Tesla CEO Elon Musk.)
Sort of sounds like they didn’t want it.
So why do it? If we take the Trump administration at its word, the president has just signed a “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak.” That would seem comforting if the action were likely to produce the desired effect. But it’s not.
The order blocks visas for a variety of jobs — some skilled, some seasonal. It limits the ability of companies that operate in a global arena to arrange stints in the U.S. for nonresidents they already employ.
By one estimate — from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute — it would keep 219,000 temporary workers out. According to the Trump administration, it will free up 525,000 jobs. One or the other must have the calculus wrong.
In any case, business leaders (as expressed by Mandle, above) don’t think they’ll be able to find workers with suitable skills if they can’t draw them from overseas. It isn’t as if Americans will fill the jobs instead.
So why do it?
One possible explanation can be extrapolated from a recent comment by former national security adviser John Bolton. In an ABC News interview about his now-available book “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton said he didn’t see any decisions during his time working for Trump for which re-election wasn’t the major factor.
But that may minimize Trump’s underlying commitment to turning U.S. policy against immigrants. After all, his like-minded adviser, Stephen Miller, reportedly told supporters during a private call in April that coronavirus-related curbs on immigration were actually part of a long-term vision.
A separate example is Trump’s expansion of the number of asylum-seekers subject to quick deportation — within weeks, with minimal investigation of their claims. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such people, as newly arriving noncitizens, do not have the right to contest their cases in federal court.