President Trump has signed a proclamation declaring that certain types of immigration to the United States will be subject to limits for the next 60 days. The given reason for this move is that it will enable American citizens to be more competitive in the job market as the economy begins to reopen after the Coronavirus lockdown. Yet, already, an aggravated media intent on spin and persuasion seem to be trying to cast this as something dark and damaging. Will the president’s plan be effective? And can it survive the barrage of negativity that is already brewing in newsrooms across the nation?
For the next 60 days, overseas immigration applications will not be processed. This does not apply to those seeking work in any field that can help with the aftermath of COVID-19. It also does not apply to spouses or children under the age of 21 seeking to reunite with parents.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that for two months, up to 52,000 hopeful immigrants would have to wait to apply for a Green Card. Bearing in mind that the U.S. is presently one of the hardest-hit countries by the Coronavirus (at least in terms of numbers accurately recorded), is waiting a couple of months really that onerous a burden?
Let the Spin Begin
The press is in the process of hammering at the door of every open border advocacy group willing to spend a couple of words to deride the president, and these voices are being placed front and center in what appears to be the start of a narrative battle. For some of these groups, halting any type of immigration is an affront that must be met with fury and indignation.
CBS News ran the headline, “Trump targets immigrant visas he’s long sought to limit in new coronavirus proclamation,” in an apparent attempt to paint this action with the brush of politicking. Not to be outdone, CNN ran an opinion piece titled, “Trump’s moves on immigration reveal his true motives.”
The author of CNN’s diatribe, Rafia Zakaria, concludes that:
“All of this will allow President Trump to win points with his largely immigrant-hating base. In the days before the President’s tweet, right-wing groups were demanding an end to employment-based immigration.”
The sweeping slander against the millions of Americans who support the president highlights the angle of the spin: If you support restricting any form of immigration, you clearly hate immigrants.
What does Trump say about his plan? What reasons does he give, and are they valid?
An Effective Policy?
Writing in his proclamation, the president highlights explicitly how the economic downturn is impacting African American communities and other minority groups (presumably including recent immigrants). He avers:
“These are the workers who, at the margin between employment and unemployment, are likely to bear the burden of excess labor supply disproportionately.”
It has been argued that large-scale immigration compresses wages, especially for those who work in the low-skill sector; an influx of new migrants competing for jobs as the economy reopens would almost certainly depress earning potential for those in the direst of straits. But does the proclamation go far enough to make a significant difference?
With even opponents of the president suggesting that at most this would delay around 50,000 new migrants, can it be described as effective policy in reducing competition for employment on a large scale? Probably not. Yet, for some folks struggling to make ends meet, desperate to get back into employment, it might just make the difference between work and welfare.
Read more from Mark Angelides.