There are two facets to Donald Trump’s suspension of new work visas that he announced on Monday. First, it will buttress his nationalist credentials barely five months ahead of Election 2020. Second, he has turned the screw on foreigners generally yet again.
Granted that it will be in force for the rest of this year, it bars hundreds of thousands of foreigners from seeking employment in the United States, part of a broad effort to limit the entry of immigrants into the country. The curb on the entry of spouses is bound to impinge on familial life.
Small wonder the latest order has been greeted with stout opposition by the corporate circuit, dependent as it is on techocrats from abroad, notably India. The praxis is of a piece with his inbuilt aversion to foreigners, markedly citizens of Muslim countries ~ save Saudi Arabia (despite 9/11) ~ as was evident on his assumption of office.
He has blocked visas for a wide variety of jobs, including those for computer programmers and other skilled workers who enter the country under the H-1B visa, as well as those for seasonal workers in the hospitality industry, students on work-study summer programmes and “au pairs who arrive under other auspices”.
The order also restricts the ability of American companies with global operations and international companies with US branches to transfer foreign executives and other employees to the United States for months or stints that can run for years.
In tangible terms, the ban on worker visas, combined with extending restrictions on the issue of new green cards, would keep as many as 525,000 foreign workers out of the country for the rest of the year. Having said that, one must concede that the provocation was compelling, and still more so in the season of the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a crippling effect on employment generation and economic enterprise in the wider canvas.
Further, restrictive changes in the nation’s immigration system might push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth and reduce job creation. Mr Trump described suspension of the visas as a way to ensure that Americans are first in line for scarce jobs.
“Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak, certain non-immigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” President Trump wrote in the order.
The effort to restrict foreigners’ entry was at the core of one of the President’s key promises during the 2016 campaign and is certain to play a central role during his re-election campaign. The plan to erect a “big beautiful wall” hasn’t quite addressed the issue of illegal migrants. Even in America, there is little or no support for Monday’s ‘not welcome’ sign. Intrinsically, Donald Trump has once again signalled that America is for Americans. In effect, the country is withdrawing into itself.