Explained: Why Trump Backpedaled on his Immigration Order

Just hours after President Trump announced that his Executive Order would pause most immigration to the U.S. during the current high unemployment period, he abruptly shifted gears. Under his revised Executive Order, employment-based visas would be issued as per usual, a devastating blow to the 26 million Americans who have lost their jobs. In less than two months, COVID-19 has wiped out all of the 23 million jobs created after the 2007-2009 recession ended. The real unemployment rate soared past 20 percent, and is expected to push upward toward 30 percent over the coming weeks.

To the enormous disappointment of President Trump’s base, and many jobless Americans, the final Executive Order didn’t live up to the original version. Exempted from President Trump’s rewritten version are temporary foreign workers, including the recently approved 85,000 H-1B visas, as well as the H-2A and H-2B visas used for agriculture, seasonal and leisure industries. The COVID-19 lockdown has destroyed, at least for now, hotel and food service businesses. Look, for example, at Las Vegas where the famous, tourist-dependent Strip has turned off its lights. Claims that more H-2B visas are essential only make the claimants sound foolish. Evidence that adding 85,000 more H-1Bs would be damaging: an email survey found that 54 percent of big tech employees worry that COVID-19 will cost them their jobs; 62 percent fear that their incomes will decline.

One need not be an economist nor an immigration expert to understand the harm done by adding hundreds of thousands of overseas workers to the labor pool during today’s severe unemployment crisis. Ask the next 100 people on the street what they think of importing labor while Americans are reeling from the effect of unemployment, and likely 99 percent would call it inexplicable folly. Simply stated, as long as Americans remain jobless, importing overseas labor exacerbates the already grave unemployment crisis. For U.S. workers, more immigration translates into, at best, lower wages and, at worst, lost jobs.

U.S. tech workers are particularly puzzled over what happened to President Trump’s original idea behind his Executive Order to pause the foreign labor inflow, especially the H-1B visa. The president’s promise to U.S. tech workers to restrict H-1Bs dates back to his 2016 campaign debate in Miami when he said, “It’s very bad for business. And it’s bad for our workers. And we should end it.”

White House insiders told the media that during the back and forth discussions about how inclusive the Executive Order should be, one advisor to President Trump said that Apple chief executive officer would be unhappy if his H-1B pipeline were interrupted. In 2019, Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook were among the top ten recipients of new H-1-B visas. Moreover, Cook has long tussled with President Trump over immigration restrictions. In February 2017, Cook threatened to file a lawsuit against President Trump over a previous Executive Order that banned entry to refugees from seven majority Muslim nations.

However, a suspect more likely to have undermined President Trump is his immigration-advocate son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. Since President Trump first moved into the White House, the expansionist Kushner has been his immigration go-to guy. Working quietly behind the scenes, Kushner has consistently promoted higher legal immigration levels that would focus on admitting more low-and high-skilled labor which includes workers in the H visa category.

But the Executive Order contains a provision that allows 30 days from the date that President Trump signed his proclamation, April 23, for the Secretaries of Labor, State and Homeland Security to review nonimmigrant programs to “ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

President Trump doesn’t need input from his Cabinet to act on behalf of Americans. For 30 years, since the Immigration Act of 1990, tens of millions of U.S. workers have lost their jobs because cheap labor addicts have unduly influenced Republican and Democratic administrations. An Ipsos poll found that nearly 80 percent of Americans support an immigration pause during the coronavirus and unemployment emergency.

The purpose of government is to carry out the people’s will. In this case, that means pausing immigration until U.S. workers can get back on their feet – a period more likely to last years, not the weeks that the Executive Order suggests.