NEW YORK – Perhaps no other politician in modern day politics has stoked the issue of immigration like President Trump has, making it a vicious and vexatious topic for most Americans. With the economy showing signs of strain, the issue of how many foreigners, and which foreigners should be allowed to emigrate and work in America may prove to be the most crucial issue in the 2020 Presidential elections.
Trump has done solid groundwork on that front. His mantra of ‘Make America Great Again’ is firmly planted in popular imagination – cutting across bipartisan lines. It’s perhaps the one issue that most Americans will agree upon (even if reluctantly), come 2020 polls. That when it comes to jobs and national interest, it’s Americans and America first. Then the rest of the world (if you’re a liberal, that is).
The promise and lure of a plethora of jobs, where for generations Americans won’t have to worry about either their own selves or for the future of their children and grandchildren, has taken root. Nobody can blame Trump for that. Instead, they credit him for it.
Damn innovation. Who cares about that brilliant scientist from overseas, if my own son or daughter can become a scientist, is the notion that has wound its way like creepers on a wall, taken hold of American imagination, slowly clouded perception.
Previous administrations have had their fair share of dealing with the tumultuous issue of illegal immigration, and deportations. But what Trump really has done, apart from his rhetoric of a wall on the southern border, harsh policies to deter the flow of illegals on foot and caravans, is to take legal immigration by the scruff of its neck, and shake it thoroughly. Leave it dazed and confused.
In less than two years since he assumed office, Trump has put into motion several punitive rules and regulations that is slowly snaking its way through the ranks and file of legal immigrants, slowly but surely dismantling, dismembering it. It’s like a knife sliding in smoothly, without any resistance, through a block of jello, and then stirring it, with greater force.
The moves, which have all been done without the House or the Senate politicians coming into the picture, is like pieces of a grand puzzle being slowly laid out, giving time for the ramifications to spread far and wide.
The life of an H-1B visa holder today is fraught with fear and insecurity; scared to travel overseas, at the risk of being denied entry. Around 100,000 H-4 visa holders with a work permit will in all likelihood soon, won’t be allowed to work. It will diminish their and their family’s quality of life. Measures like ‘Public Charge’ could soon be in effect, will target the Indian community the most.
The latest move on H-1B work visas, to throw open more of the available 85,000 H-1B visas to graduates of US universities, on the face of it, is a brilliant move by the Trump Administration. A closer look, however, may reveal what it really is: an elitist, and discriminating move to demolish the ‘insourcing’ of foreign labor.
The move will in reality kill the influx of overseas workers. It’s capitalist in nature, to say the least, favoring only the educated and the rich, and the rich.
By the time Capitol Hill wakes up to the fact that Trump managed to pull off a coup on legal immigration, without comprehensive immigration reforms, it would have become the new normal. In a few years’ time, there won’t be any work visas for foreign workers. Only for the students who attend US universities.
It’s leveling the playing field too. The Trump Administration is cleverly ensuring that foreign students will start on a similar footing as an American student. An American student won’t have to worry about competing with an experienced worker from India, for a job. It ensures that the colleges and universities in the US keep ticking along nicely. Come election time, they can boast that only the best and the brightest foreigners are being allowed to stay on, who can integrate well into society.
But here’s the thing: soon, the companies who sponsor these foreign students will realize that it’s far cheaper and less cumbersome to hire only American students for a job. Why bother paying all those hefty immigration fees, and then have to fork out even more for a Green Card, when an American graduate with the same skill-sets is available? Anyway, that’s one of the regulations of the DHS, that companies find an American worker for the job, and if there are none, then sponsor a foreigner.
Pramila Jayapal, the Democrat congresswoman from Washington, wrote a column on immigration for The New York Review of Books, this week. The column, headlined, ‘A New Moral Imagination on Immigration,’ recounted how she emigrated to the US at the age of 16 to study in the US, and after “an alphabet soup of visas and the abiding fear that I might not be able to stay in my new home”, got her citizenship in 2000.
“I am deeply troubled by the widening divide between the inherent complexity of immigration laws and the simplistic, generally punitive rhetoric that aims to criminalize migration,” Jayapal wrote.
Jayapal notes that as America grows and ages, it would need immigrants to replenish work force as baby-boomers age. In the fast-growing industries of domestic care, home health aides, nursing assistants, and personal care aides, immigrants make up the vast majority of workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that in those industries alone, from 2016 to 2026, the US will need workers to fill 1.2 million jobs.
“Yet our legal immigration system is groaning under the weight of outdated category caps that simply don’t meet the needs of our economy or our people. The number of visas for nonagricultural workers (such as construction workers, housekeepers, or forest workers) is stuck at the 1990 level of 66,000 visas—even though our economy requires millions,” notes Jayapal.
The problem is, as Jayapal herself knows, is that Congress is not going to open up more visas for those categories. Unless the Democrats can guarantee Republicans that they won’t put up a candidate for the top job in the White House in the 2020 elections. What are the odds of that? Perhaps, even better than more visas for foreign workers in the Trump era.
For now, Trump and his administration is merrily making all the chess moves like Magnus Carlsen. From both sides of the chess table.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)