Three years ago, President Trump issued his “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order. But as the November election draws closer, many critics insist that President Trump has come up short on his promise to “hire American.” The president’s myriad critics cynically joke that COVID-19 has been more effective at slowing the foreign-born worker influx, especially in the tech sector, than the hapless White House.
Through Executive Order, President Trump pledged to protect American workers’ economic interests by creating tighter labor markets. Fewer international employment-based visa holders mean that U.S. workers will benefit from a more limited labor pool. But in the end, the pandemic did more to help U.S. tech workers unfairly forced to compete with H-1B visa holders than President Trump’s administrative bluster.
Because international university student enrollment has dropped precipitously from the 2019 level of 400,000 to about 150,000, future opportunities for U.S. graduates will increase dramatically. A Bloomberg story titled “COVID-19 Interrupts Flow of Foreign Students to U.S.” panicked the pro-immigration lobby — universities, cheap labor-addicted corporations and immigration lawyers. An Institute of International Education study that polled 520 U.S. universities and colleges found that about 50 percent reported international enrollment declines, some of them steep. The Bloomberg reporter noted that many international students, who arrived on F-1 visas, decide to “stick around.” Therein lies the rub.
The F-1 student visa originated in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. As originally intended, a student would secure his F-1 visa, come to the U.S., earn his degree, and then return to his native land to improve his country’s economic future. Today, however, an F-1 student who graduates with a science, math, engineering or technology degree (STEM) can apply for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) permit that allows him to work in the U.S. for three years. At that point, an employer can sponsor the OPT holder for a dual intent H-1B visa that will lead to a Green Card, and eventual U.S. citizenship.
In other words, the F-1 visa, which initially had to be renewed annually, has become, in some cases, the first step in a path to citizenship. Each year, the federal government issues about 400,000 work permits to foreign-born graduates which, in effect, displace or block Americans from employment opportunities. Issuing 400,000 employment documents is disgraceful given that former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Erica Groshen calculates that 25 million Americans are waiting to be called back to work or are part-timers seeking full-time employment.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and not the U.S. Congress, created STEM OPT. In his 2008 written testimony to the House of Representatives, Gates made the unsubstantiated claims that the U.S. is falling behind in the global technology race, and that employers faced “a crisis” because of “the current H-1B shortage.” Corporate America has repeated Gates’ pretense talking points ad infinitum, and a gullible, donor-dependent Congress has swallowed his bunk hook, line and sinker. Consequently, tens of thousands of skilled U.S. tech workers have lost their jobs, and thousands more among college graduates have been unfairly turned away.
The immigration lobby and the establishment media are forever harping on the so-called best and brightest who have come from abroad to keep corporate America humming. The other side of the international worker equation — brain drain — gets nary a mention.
Two recent articles highlight how brain drain has hurt natal countries. Angela Nagle from American Affairs cited 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data which showed that about 45 percent of migrants who have arrived in the United States since 2010 are college educated. These are individuals trained at their home country’s public cost, yet the wealthy global market snaps them up which creates, as Nagle wrote, a persistent “qualified employment deficit.” As one example, Nagle pointed to Ethiopia which has more physicians practicing in Chicago than in all of Ethiopia, a country with an 80 million population.
Stephen Jordan, CEO for the Institute for Sustainable Development, concluded that some of these countries have lost 40 percent of economic growth, and “the costs to the social fabric have been enormous.”
President Trump’s first and possibly only term is up. If the president is re-elected, he’ll have four more years to make good on his “hire American” vow.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.