Tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus still haven't gone back to work and they may not anytime soon either as consumer demand remains semi-permanently depressed, but the White House apparently believes they can fix the problem by suspending guest worker visas.
What was first reported on Friday evening was confirmed by Trump himself over the weekend.
There will be very few exclusions, Trump said, when asked about upcoming rules on several different visa categories, including the H-1B program for high-skilled workers, the L-1 program for managers transferring within their companies, and H-2B visas for non-agricultural temporary workers. [...]
The move would affect hundreds of companies and thousands of people: In fiscal year 2019, the H-1B visa was awarded to about 133,000 workers starting initial employment with a company. More than 12,000 people were granted L-1 visas in initial applications, and more than 98,000 people were issued H-2B visas. Barring exclusions, Trump’s plan could affect more than 240,000 applicants just based on these three work visa categories.
Trump's executive order could be signed as soon as today, but whatever the case is this will do absolutely nothing to reduce unemployment and it will hurt, not help, the economy.
The vast majority of Americans who've lost their jobs do not work in a so-called "skilled" field where foreign workers are brought in to perform jobs in programming or engineering among other things. The vast majority of people who've lost their jobs were restaurant, retail, or public sector workers who've probably never worked alongside someone brought into the country on a guest worker visa.
You cannot just summon a software engineer out of a pool of people who was serving drinks last month so the net effect of a ban on new worker visas will be to slow down business in the only field that has kept the economy afloat: technology
With that said, there's plenty of reason to think that the biggest companies will find way ways around Trump's suspension of new visas so, in the end, this could be just another attempt to make it appear that immigrant workers are the reason why Americans don't have jobs. Trump is probably looking for something the fill the political hole left by the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reportedly wrote a letter to the White House warning them that a ban on new visas would reduce economic growth.
Anti-immigration groups are excited about Trump's order, as you might expect, but others don't feel quite the same about it.
"No matter how you slice it, this is shaping up to be a big win for American workers at a critical time," said RJ Hauman, government relations director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for lower levels of immigration. FAIR had called on Trump to suspend guest worker visas. [...]
"The ban on H-1B visas, which are often used to fill very niche positions that are not easily found in the American workforce, will ultimately prove to be counterproductive and is an example of using a nuclear bomb to address a bar fight," said Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers.
FAIR has been designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. That's who is on Trump's side for this decision.