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Did Trump's New Immigration Policies Shoot the U.S. in the Foot?

You know things are rough when, on the one hand, you have the president expanding the U.S. travel ban and imposing a wealth test on green card applications, and the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney saying that the U.S. is “desperate” for more legal immigrants on the other. At the heart of this perplexing message is the current administration’s contradictory agenda of wanting to, all at once, boost the economy and also tamp down on new arrivals from abroad. After all, continued economic growth depends on a strong and expanding workforce of the likes the U.S. is struggling to maintain.

President Trump’s immigration policies—ranging from visa restrictions to travel bans, refugee caps to asylum changes—have precipitated a 25% drop in immigrant visas being issued and an 11% decline in legal immigration over all. What’s more, experts predict that the administration’s continued pursuit of anti-immigration policies will bring about a 35% drop in the average annual growth of the U.S. labor force by 2021. In a question-and-answer session at Oxford Union in the Britain, Mulvaney was recording as stating, “we are running out of people to fuel the economic growth.”

Without workers to fill new positions, job growth doesn’t mean much. The size of the U.S. workforce correlates directly to the size of the U.S. economy. The National Foundation for American Policy predicts that, in the long term, the average annual U.S. labor force growth will be between 35% and 59% lower in America as a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Meanwhile, researchers agree that immigration raises levels of innovation, productivity, and economic growth.

The Trump administration can’t have it both ways. Pursuing policy designed to reduce immigration is simply incompatible with an agenda aimed at economic growth.

The president knows this, and thus his own position is mired in double speak. At his 2020 State of the Union speech the Trump claimed, "legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways," going on to state, "I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally." Meanwhile, in justifying his decision to add Nigeria to the list of countries subject to his administration’s travel ban, the president complained that those Nigerians who entered the United States legally would never “go back to their huts,” thereby justifying his ban on entry in the first place.

Such conflicting messages leave aspiring immigrants caught in a web of doubt and confusion. Many are simply choosing to go elsewhere and the U.S. economy is paying the price. Many more do not have this privilege and must contend with the existential doubt implied by seeking legal permanent residency in a country that seems inhospitable at best and hostile at worst. Even those who dedicate their professional lives to keeping up with shifts in policy struggle to do so in the current environment. Non-professionals have little hope.

If you find yourself in the desperate position of trying to chart a path toward staying in the U.S., consider hiring an experienced immigration attorney. Though doing so comes at a cost in the short-term, the long-term impact of failure to immigrate is far costlier—both for you and our country as a whole.

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