Since President Trump took office in 2017, there’s been hardly a shortage of assaults on immigrants, whether outright discrimination in the U.S. or not-so-subtle digs at immigrants abroad. However, his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order has had the longest-lasting effect for immigrant workers.
The administration plans to propose a rule stemming from the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order that would bar those with H-4 visa status — spouses of H-1B visa holders in the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident — from entering the U.S. workforce. The majority of these individuals are highly educated women; about 60 percent have graduate degrees, three-quarters are employed, and nearly seven percent are self-employed, meaning they could effectively hire additional workers.
Removing this group from the workforce could be costly, as these individuals together add around $5.5 billion to the U.S. economy. In the same token, the Trump administration assumes that the jobs H-4 visa holders are not taking equates to more jobs for native-born workers. This is simply not true, as nearly two-thirds of employed H-4 holders work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The undoing of the 2015 H-4 visa status sends a message to potential immigrant workers that they are not welcome. Keeping this message up could have long-lasting negative effects, namely pushing more and more high-skilled workers to find jobs elsewhere. Competition between native-born and foreign workers is low in the U.S., and the type of work each respective group does complements the other. Pairing this with the fact that immigrants started nearly 18 percent of all Fortune 500 companies, the effect on our economy could be detrimental.
Denying nearly 90,000 workers a chance to contribute to the U.S., both through employment and in paying taxes, only hurts our economy more. And while the “crisis” at the Southern border is the main immigration talking point, these changes to immigration laws will likely not see the coverage they deserve for Americans to understand the impact. Only through comprehensive reform can real change begin to happen — and that is proving to be a hard fight under this administration.