Poll-year symbolism or sign of things to come? What experts think of Trump's visa move

​​To satisfy its base before the poll, Trump continues to use the same old tactic of targeting immigrants.

AP
In an election year, the US president is appealing to his supporter base, feel several immigration experts.
The recent executive order by US President Donald Trump which suspended temporary work permits including the H1B, H4, L1, L2, & J1 categories for visa holders currently outside the US till December 2020 has hit thousands of Indians hard.

For many skilled Indian workers stuck outside the US awaiting visa stamps, to spouses on dependent H4 visas as well as American and Indian companies that hire thousands of skilled workers; the ban has had a huge impact and created a lot of uncertainty. The question now is of larger immigration reforms or steps that the US government may be planning especially in a year when presidential elections are coming up in November.

“The executive order is what the Trump administration believes is necessary given that we have over 11% unemployment. It is symbolism too and yes everything is about elections now. I do not see this becoming a long-term policy as the business community is against it, the tech community is against it and the education sector is against it as it hurts them from recruitment of foreign students,” feels Sanjay Puri, chairman, US India Political Action Committee.


However, on the issue of broader immigration reforms in the US, Puri feels they will be much tougher. “Larger immigration reform is hard as there are substantial groups for and against big changes. The only way it happens is if there is a political party that obtains a substantial majority in both the Houses and the White House. If the Democrats win the White House and the Senate and keep the house then it is possible.”

While the recent executive order does not impact them directly, for thousands of Indians in the US stuck for many years on green card queues, the uncertainty around immigration policy and the recent measures by the Trump administration are a cause for concern. “It comes as no surprise that the US administration continues to use the Covid19 pandemic as an excuse to move forward with its xenophobic and racist plans.

To satisfy its base before the elections, the Trump administration continues to use the same old tactic of targeting and blaming immigrants – this time, the high skilled immigrants and labeling them as job stealers. What is worth noting is that high tech jobs, for which H-1Bs are hired, were least affected and had the lowest unemployment rate during the pandemic.
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Foreign workers and skilled immigrants in America are the ones who have kept the economy humming while businesses were transforming their ways to cope and adapt with the aftermath of the pandemic. These high skilled immigrants are needed to jump start the economy. The administration continues to push a theory that immigration is a “zero sum” game. Number of jobs in the economy are set in stone and if an immigrant takes a job, that must mean that he/she is taking away one from an American. That is not how the economy works. Various reports show that high skilled immigrants actually create more jobs for Americans,” says Anirban Das, president and founder of advocacy group Skilled Immigrants in America (SIIA).

In an election year, the US president is appealing to his supporter base, feel several immigration experts. “Over the last four years the US government led by President Trump has introduced several short and long term measures to restrict immigration. Across the spectrum, immigrants have been hit including a large number of highly skilled legal immigrants from India,” says Doug Rand, co-founder and president of immigration firm Boundless.

He doesn’t expect any sweeping changes in immigration policy even after the presidential elections. “If President Trump is reelected, very little will change in immigration policy except perhaps some narrow changes to deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). Only if the Democratic candidate wins the election and the Democrats have a majority in the Senate and the house will sweeping immigration reforms become possible,” he added.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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