President Donald Trump’s White House proclamation Wednesday declares legal immigration can hurt Americans’ wages, and gives the public 50 days to organize a political push against the D.C. establishment’s support for the cheap-labor status quo.
“I think it is great that he did it,” said Hilarie Gamm, the pseudonymous software professional who helped create the American Workers Coalition. Many American graduates have been pushed out of good careers by federal immigration policy, she said, adding, “we’ve been pushing a long time to get it in the news.”
The immediate policy contents of Trump’s proclamation are minor, but “it is good that the president has committed to revising this in 50 days,” said Jessica Vaughan, the policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies. “That gives Americans the opportunity to weigh on what should happen, and it gives experts within his own administration the time to prepare good policy options.”
Trump’s unprecedented proclamation about wages and migration comes 30 years after Washington, DC, adopted a high-immigration, low-wage economic strategy by approving President George H. W. Bush’s 1990 pro-employer immigration-expansion bill.
Trump’s proclamation says:
Excess labor supply affects all workers and potential workers, but it is particularly harmful to workers at the margin between employment and unemployment, who are typically “last in” during an economic expansion and “first out” during an economic contraction. In recent years, these workers have been disproportionately represented by historically disadvantaged groups, including African Americans and other minorities, those without a college degree, and the disabled. These are the workers who, at the margin between employment and unemployment, are likely to bear the burden of excess labor supply disproportionately.
There is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents by directing those new residents to particular economic sectors with a demonstrated need not met by the existing labor supply.
This focus on jobs and wages is a huge shift from the establishment’s worldview, which insists working Americans actually benefit economically from the government’s policy of mass immigration.
Roughly four million Americans turn 18 each year to search for jobs, stable careers, and affordable homes. But the federal government imports roughly one million legal immigrants a year, alongside the inflow of visa workers and illegal migrants, to compete against them for jobs and housing.
Trump’s proclamation gives the public 50 days to make a public case for a low-immigration, high-wage national economy, saying:
Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation.
However, Trump’s policy is far less sweeping than the promise of his original tweet.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
But the promise of Trump’s tweet was blocked amid furious closed-door lobbying by hugely wealthy Fortune 500 companies and elite investors. Their opposition was chiefly intended to stop the inflow of non-immigrant, white collar visa workers, including the roughly 900,000 H-1B workers who spike stock prices by shrinking salaries for U.S. professionals.
The April 22 proclamation exempts the resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers from curbs.
That was a deep disappointment to many supporters, including some liberal graduates who are forced to vote for any politicians who protect their salaries and jobs from the Fortune 500’s army of visa workers. “I gave to your campaign from my severance the last time I was replaced by a foreign worker,” said a message from a U.S. professional named James. “You don’t deserve your voters.”
But Trump’s offer of a June re-match between voters and the Fortune 500 gives the public another chance to shift the nation’s economic policy towards employees, say reformers.
Many polls show American voters like — and want to like — immigrants. But the polls also show the public strongly objects to companies hiring foreign workers before American employees. For example, an August 2017 poll reported 68 percent of Americans oppose companies’ use of H-1Bs to outsource U.S.-based jobs that could be held by Americans.
Professionals in many commercial jobs outside journalism recognize the job-market impact of the visa worker programs. Many engineers, designers, software experts, and others have provided their stories, nearly always with the demand that their identity be shielded from hostile hiring managers. For example, one software professional recently provided this note to Breitbart News:
My company laid off [nearly all] of its IT contract labor. However, a few contractors were kept on to maintain the existing infrastructure. I did not see a single American keep their contract … managers assume they can rehire the Americans on a whim if things pick back up. If they laid off an H1B then that H1B would have to depart [for home].
Another told Breitbart News
I work as a computer scientist and know firsthand how out of control these H1B visas are. Constantly see job postings asking for 10 years of experience [working] 4-year-old-software so the [employers] can turn around and plead to the government for a low wage replacement from another country.
“I’d like him to end OPT, H4EAD, and cut back H-1B to be merit-based and less than 10 percent of what is today,” said Gamm. “I’m hoping that Trump and his administration are going to put Americans first.”
There is a wide variety of groups and activists that are already pushing at Trump to change the nation’s cheap-labor policy — amid the establishment’s well-funded efforts to portray the mainstream debate over economics and class as an illegitimate demand for “xenophobia.”
For example, FWD.us was founded by wealthy West Coast investors to promote the doomed 2013 “Gang of Eight” amnesty and cheap-labor bill. On April 23, it dismissed Trump’s proclamation, saying:
Slashing legal immigration in response to a public health crisis is as ridiculous as it is dangerous. Let’s be honest: this has nothing to do with public health or economic well-being during the COVID-19 crisis. This executive order is about two things: first, this is a political act to demagogue and distract from President Trump’s abysmal handling of the COVID-19 crisis, including a lack of testing, ahead of the election. Second, it is a policy effort by hardliners to exploit this crisis to enact their awful, decades-old wish list to slash immigration radically.
The groups also include a large number of white-collar graduates who are trying to influence politics even as they work their jobs and seek their next contract. American professionals have organized to lobby against the H-1B program via the American Workers Coalition, U.S. TechWorkers, ProUSworkers, and White Collar Workers of America, and TechsUnite.US.
Helping America Recover: @EdRollins @mgoodwin_nypost say when jobs become available, they should be going to American workers, not foreigners through visa programs. #KAG2020 #AmericaFirst #Dobbs pic.twitter.com/XoyWlA0ggD
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) April 22, 2020
@realDonaldTrump please observe the high number of likes and retweets to this tweet. Now ask the same people if they “like” your actual “immigration suspension”. Listen to your base! https://t.co/QL4bNY35y7
— Sara Blackwell (@4US_Workers) April 21, 2020
President @realDonaldTrump had the power to sign a grand Immigration Moratorium to save the American Worker. He chose not to.
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) April 23, 2020
Trump’s 50-day clock includes a 30-day deadline for federal agencies to gauge the huge economic impact of the nation’s immigration policies, which inflate the new labor supply of job-seeking workers by roughly 25 percent each year. The proclamation says:
Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.
Many advocates for American graduates & workers cheered when Trump announced his temporary immigration shutdown.
Business & investors, of course, oppose any shutdown of their foreign-graduate pipeline. #H1B https://t.co/gw402H0wWZ
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) April 21, 2020
But Trump’s zig-zagging between donors and voters is alienating many of those who stuck with him in 2016.
“We knew it was best not to react to Trump’s initial claims about stopping immigration or any immigration matter because his past behavior has shown us there is an 80% chance that what he is telling us isn’t true,” said William Gheen, the founder of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC.
“Trump has broken most of his key campaign promises … here once again he promises his audiences he will end all immigration for 60 days, but then guts the actual order to where it will have little impact for American workers.”