The Indicator from Planet Money - An Immigration Backfire?

Limiting high-skilled immigration to the U.S. may not save jobs for Americans; it might even cost jobs.

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everyone Cardiff in Stacy here. This is indicator from Planet Money on June 22nd. President Trump issued an executive order to restrict certain types of immigrants and temporary foreign worker from coming to the u.s. Not this order applied to Future immigrants not to people who are already here or those would already been approved to move here and the rationale given by the president was it would so many Americans out of work right now. She did not want more people from other countries competing with Americans for the available jobs. And the executive order was consistent with the president's broader agenda of limiting immigration to the US make computers is an associate professor of political science at UCLA. And she says there was one thing about the executive order that she found really surprising unlike the Trump administration's earlier changes to immigration which had largely focused on restricting so-called low skilled immigration this new executive order also targeted visas for highly.

Skilled workers and specifically is Maggie Spillane's the order suspended new H-1B visas. Those are the pieces that often go to foreign workers in the US tax sector the government had previously begun scrutinizing H-1B applications more than it had before and that it made it more complicated to apply for them. But this order temporarily suspends granting H-1B. He's all together with just a few exceptions about the H-1B workers who are coming into the tech sector that's not exactly the population that we think about who've lost their jobs right now everything about the tech sector has pretty quickly to being able to work remotely.

Play the show the economics of immigration during the pandemic that has devastated the US economy will restricting high-skilled immigration actually read businesses to hire more American workers, or could it be really backfire.

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Maggie Peters is the author of trading barriers immigration in the remaking of globalization. She says that throw long stretches of US History going all the way back to the 80s American businesses cared a lot about attracting more immigrants to the US that's because businesses needed the workers manufacturing and agriculture still needed a lot of Labor. So he still had a lot of people coming to work on farms or start their own Farms. The economy is obviously very different now if businesses that want to find more workers are restricted from hiring immigrants. They have a number of options for how to get certain jobs done and one option. Yes could be to hire more American workers instead. That is the option that the Trump Administration hopes businesses will go for when it restricts immigration and in some cases that could happen, but very often hiring American workers could require paying higher wages been too busy.

What if paid to an immigrant or a business could be pursuing immigrant workers for their specific skill-set which might be harder to find in the US in those cases businesses could choose other options, which they do have especially because the economy is so much more technologically advanced than it used to be at the auction has become increasingly appealing to businesses in the tech sector is just go ahead and hire at the immigrant workers that they wanted to hire in the first place. But to let those workers do their jobs in a different country outside of the us and this has been a lot easier recently because the online tools that make remote work possible have gotten so much better. And so many more people are using them and having this option is one of the reasons that Maggie argues restricting high-skilled immigration will not necessarily lead to more jobs for Americans. In fact, she says for some businesses, it could even lead to fewer jobs in the US.

You can hire those immigrant workers and then you would probably lose jobs here because you're not just thinking about that. It's a couple of tech workers are also thinking about all the support staff and all the people who are in the restaurants in the office Park and all of the janitors and all of that other staff that because people are no longer in that building in Silicon Valley there now in Toronto, you're just don't have the same Force at the moment. There are so many people out of work in office parks in in restaurants. Anyways that we might not see the effects just yet. But those effects could become more obvious more pronounced later on when the economy returns to normal and from an economic standpoint. Maggie argues immigrants are not just workers. They are also consumers who buy things like new houses and cars and Furniture in groceries and all the other things that go with moving to a new place. I don't know if those immigrants are moving to another country. It could mean less demand in the long run for the products sold in the US that could also lead.

Future jobs for American workers who make and sell those products examples of businesses in the US that are hiring a lot of the same immigrants. They wanted to hire they are just hiring them to work north of the Border in Canada. Canada runs a program to accept highly-skilled immigrants called Express entry between 2017 and 2019. The number of people who have been living in the US and then were accepted through Express entry into Canada increased by 75% And all of that increase was from people who were not US citizens in other words highly-skilled immigrants in the US were moving to Canada to work there instead and other research looked at what happens when the US makes it harder for foreign workers to get in H-1B visa. That is the Visa that allows highly-skilled foreign Nationals to work in the US temporarily and what happened is the big multinational companies typically ended up hiring more workers at their foreign affiliate offices, especially in Canada, China and India.

Seeing the Canadian government trying to benefit from so the Canadian government was running ads and Silicon Valley basically touting that they have relatively easy visas and as the data suggest some us businesses have already been taking advantage of this option to hire workers and have them work from another country because it's just easier that way then fighting through the new immigration restrictions. In fact, Maggie says, there's a chance the pandemic could actually intensify these Trends because a lot of companies are now experimenting with their employees working remotely anyway, and so as we get used to more people not working together an office but working online. It becomes even easier to have people in other countries work for you. And so company is increasingly see this is a potential that why why even bother with an immigration system that cost a lot of money and it's tedious, but I think it's just easier.

Seether hi, everybody virtually have an office in Singapore have an office in Canada and all those sorts of issues that is just one more way. They may well end up changing a fundamental part of the economy in lasting ways. Of course, we won't know for sure until the pandemic is over and the normal times return as normal as you were before the pandemic.

Special bags for this episode of former producer Camille Peterson who contributed a lot of reporting for it. Thanks. Also does Zachary Arnold of Georgetown Center for security and emerging technology for the numbers on the express entry program. We decided to work at Economist Brita Glennon on the effects of H-1B visa restrictions will post links to all these works on her show notes and NPR. Org money has produced by Brittany Cronin Jenna. Kator. Zaditor is Patty Hearst and the indicator is a production of NPR.
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