By: Amanda Ibrahim

COVID-19 has affected every aspect of human life moreover, the business world has been hit extremely hard. Businesses have suffered both losses in revenue and man-power. The initial wake of COVID-19 left millions unemployed with national unemployment rates reaching a staggering 14.7%.[1] To add to this, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on non-US citizens: in July, the Trump Administration temporarily suspended work visas for almost the rest of the year.[2] Although couched in sentiments of returning Americans to work, this seemed like a clear move toward advancing anti-immigration policies and sentiment. When Trump publicly announced Proclamation 10014, he specifically stated that “without intervention, the United States faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand.”[3] He then specified that “the present admission of workers within several nonimmigrant visa categories also poses a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the current recovery” and that visa workers are often accompanied by wives and children who also compete for American jobs.[4] Despite the legitimate concern of returning Americans to work, this type of declaration is particularly damaging when it comes to industry innovation and company management.

Business people were less than delighted to hear this news in July. Although this Proclamation 10014 does not affect the workers with already valid work visas,[5] it considerably stunts the company when it comes to bringing in new minds and new skills. A study done by the American Immigration Council found that there are increasingly more and more foreign-born STEM workers that are making up a growing share in all occupational categories.[6] They also found that these foreign-born STEM workers migrate here on average at the age of 21, usually through some type of student or work visa. In 2015 alone, the America Immigration Council found that foreign-born workers made up 12.6% of the STEM work force, and this is only on an uphill trend.[7]

On top of COVID-19 implicating the foreign-born workers American businesses bring in, the Trump Administration is also choking out the people who are already here legally. As previously stated, the Proclamation does not affect individuals with H-1B visas, however other implementations effectively narrowing H-1B visas under the Trump Administration are underway as of the beginning of October. Since 2017, the Trump Administration aimed to narrow the gates to obtain an H-1B visa. The Trump Administration announced the changes to the H-1B visa: employers must pay a higher wage to the H-1B workers; the length of the visa has been shortened for certain contract workers; the types of degrees that qualify have been narrowed.[8] This means it is even harder to qualify for the already competitive process to obtain an H-1B visa.  These changes also affect pre-existing H-1B visa holders who are set to renew their visas.[9] Because of this, many might not qualify unless their employers decide to pay the workers the salary the employers probably earn. The most traumatizing part of these changes is that they will take effect without a public comment or review process— a process common for most new rules.[10]

This negative sentiment towards visa workers did not originate this year. The past few years have plagued visa workers with discouragement. Since 2016, there has been a growing movement in some parts of the country to hire American. Although it sounds patriotic, it is un-American. This sentiment, along with new policies has made it harder for students to require F-1 visas (which allow international students to say after graduation for additional training) and has made it more competitive for them to later require H-1B visas (which allow foreign workers to work in America for 6 years).[11] There are only 85,000 H-1B visas available each year which are given out like a lottery, and certain companies have learned to play the game for these visas leaving most other companies out of luck for their foreign workers.[12] Moreover, the 20,000 visas that are set aside for foreign workers pursuing a master degree fill up faster than the time it takes to finish reading this article.[13]

Foreign-born workers are good for the economy and for America. Many American companies depend on foreign-born workers who have a high degree of skill to fill important roles, especially in the technology, science, math, and engineering markets.[14] Restricting access to competitive minds will only impede innovation and economic growth. A way to rebuild this economy is to include the skills and talents of workers born outside America.[15] More than that, foreign born workers advance American business. Our brightest and talented minds, like Albert Einstein and Andrew Carnegie were immigrants.[16] Restrictions of foreign-born workers also strips this country of its diversity leaving a monochromatic face. As the historical door of America, the Statue of Liberty proudly states “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”[17] This nation wouldn’t be so great had immigrants not come here seeking a new life. The minds of Carnegie and Einstein would have never improved science or enterprise here. America needs foreign born workers.

Not only has there already been increasing trouble for foreign workers to obtain a visa and stay here for work, but now it seems virtually impossible. This is not just a determinant to the economy and flourishing businesses, it is a detriment to our society and the make-up of this country. This might sound trite, but it’s true that this land was built on immigrant blood, and it continues to be improved by those same hands.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/unemployment-rate-rises-to-record-high-14-point-7-percent-in-april-2020.htm?view_full.

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/us/politics/trump-h1b-work-visas.html.

[3] https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/.

[4] https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/.

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/us/politics/trump-h1b-work-visas.html.

[6] https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/foreign-born-stem-workers-united-states.

[7] https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/foreign-born-stem-workers-united-states.

[8] https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-announces-overhaul-of-h-1b-visa-program-11602017434.

[9] https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-announces-overhaul-of-h-1b-visa-program-11602017434.

[10] https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-announces-overhaul-of-h-1b-visa-program-11602017434.

[11] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/09/stem-majors-jobs/568624/.

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/us/large-companies-game-h-1b-visa-program-leaving-smaller-ones-in-the-cold.html.

[13] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/09/stem-majors-jobs/568624/.

[14] https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-announces-overhaul-of-h-1b-visa-program-11602017434.

[15] https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2020/10/10/we-need-immigrants-more-than-ever/.

[16] https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2020/10/10/we-need-immigrants-more-than-ever/.

[17] https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2020/10/10/we-need-immigrants-more-than-ever/.