The day after President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress, the Dow Industrial Average hit 21,000 for the first time ever. Investors are anticipating substantial tax cuts, especially in corporate taxes, along with massive infrastructure projects and perhaps the largest public works project of all time – “the wall.” It’s certainly good news for investors, but how are the rest of us fairing under President Trump? Will the president’s immigration plans affect the economy positively or negatively – or at all? If you are an employer who hires foreign nationals, how will the administration’s immigration policies impact your business in particular?
A deportation plan that would send hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants out of the country could be a catastrophe for the economy. Undocumented immigrants constitute about five percent of the U.S. workforce, and particular sectors of the economy, like agriculture, are almost entirely dependent on undocumented immigrants. Up to 85 percent of California’s agricultural workers are undocumented, according to Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League. If the administration were to weed out illegal workers, California farmers say their ability to do business would be crippled.
For example, the Trump Administration’s immigration policies could dramatically impact California’s Central Valley, a region of agricultural land extending from Bakersfield to Redding. Agriculture is by far the Central Valley’s largest industry, and more than 6.5 million people live there. Agriculture in the Central Valley brings in about $35 billion a year and provides more of the nation’s food than any other region.
WHAT WOULD BE THE RESULT OF MASS DEPORTATIONS?
The consequences of a serious deportation plan would ripple through the dairies and orchards but other locally owned shops, diners, and also completely different businesses, like insurance and energy. Harold McClarty, a fourth-generation farmer in Kingsburg who grows, packs, and ships peaches, plums, and grapes across the United States, told the New York Times, “If you only have legal labor, certain parts of this industry and this region will not exist. If we sent all these people back, it would be a total disaster.”
California farmers have struggled for years with a labor shortage, partly because of better security along the border and partly due to increased costs of smugglers who assist civilians across. The formerly-endless inflow of workers from rural towns and villages in Mexico has nearly ceased. Growers in California and across the country hope that the Trump Administration will further develop and ease the H-2A visa program, which allows growers to bring in foreign workers for temporary agricultural jobs.
Farmers are also among those concerned about the administration’s trade policies. The president has already pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and President Trump has promised to pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as well if he is unable to negotiate favorable circumstances for the U.S. Farmers would benefit from more positive terms, but pulling out of NAFTA entirely could trigger economic punishment from Mexico that could potentially damage agriculture in California, which earned $21 billion from trade in 2016.
WHAT OTHER INDUSTRIES ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IMMIGRATION POLICY?
Silicon Valley is also concerned about the administration’s immigration policies. Dozens of tech companies – including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and PayPal – are opposing Mr. Trump’s executive orders barring immigrants from Middle Eastern and North African nations – and opposing the other immigration crackdowns the administration has promised – because the policies could signal the end of the U.S. as a destination for the world’s best tech inventors.
If that sounds dramatic, consider that more than half of the 87 privately held U.S. start-ups valued at $1 billion or more were founded by one or more people from outside the United States, according to researchers at the National Foundation for American Policy. The Partnership for a New American Economy found in 2011 that more than 40 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants to the United States or by the children of immigrants. For the newest members in the Fortune 500, many of them technology companies, even more were founded by immigrants.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO H-1B VISAS?
And while the Trump Administration’s stance on illegal immigration has been quite clearly articulated, the president has nevertheless sent mixed signals about the H-1B visa program. Tech firms may have to begin settling for the talent they can find here in the U.S., as the president has suggested that he will restrict or abolish the H-1B visas that so many tech companies use to find and employ international workers.
Members of the Trump Administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have characterized the H1-B visa program as a system riddled with fraud and abuse that prioritizes cheaper, foreign labor ahead of U.S. workers. Limiting or eliminating H-1B visas would substantially impact the ability of U.S. companies to hire the most talented workers in the technology sector and related fields.
It’s still too soon to predict how this administration’s immigration policies will impact the domestic and global economic and business environments. Until Congress hashes out some of President Trump’s proposals – and until the Supreme Court issues definitive rulings on the president’s executive orders – employers and immigrants should have no cause for fear. The president has implied on a number of occasions that when he declares a “policy,” it may in fact only be a starting position for negotiations on the issue.
Litigation that may affect immigrants is already pending in several courts around the country. Several legal challenges to President Trump’s “travel ban” have been launched. As various courts render rulings and as those rulings are appealed, the legal situation could change rapidly throughout 2017, and employers, immigrants, nonimmigrant visa holders, and their families may need the legal advice and guidance that an experienced Columbus immigration attorney offers.
Do not hesitate to discuss any of your immigration concerns with an experienced immigration lawyer. If you are a foreign national and you are seeking a visa, a green card, a change in your immigration status, or protection from deportation – or if you are a U.S.-based employer who hires foreign nationals – it’s imperative to have sound immigration advice and experienced legal representation. The right immigration lawyer – a trustworthy Columbus immigration attorney who works right here in the United States – can help with applications, hearings, and all of the additional immigration requirements.