In comments later in the day, Senior Policy Adviser Steven Miller, highlighted the desire to limit low skilled workers to the United States. The RAISE Act would reduce the number of Green Cards offered approximately in half.
Now, I think it’s important to define some terms here because the debate on immigration is often deliberately misleading. President Trump’s plan above would make changes to the Green Card system which creates permanent residents in the United States. They’re not citizens, but they’re allowed to stay here permanently and move freely.
The visa system brings in workers on a temporary basis, and includes the H-1B and H-2A visas among others. The rights and responsibilities vary significantly on the type of visa granted, but generally are much more limited and more importantly, temporary.
There’s little doubt that the current Green Card system is not responsive to the needs of the economy. It is an old system in need of reform. It’s also clear that there needs to be greater emphasis on high skilled workers.
However, a plan to cut immigration inflow without also redirecting and increasing workers into needed sectors is counterproductive to growth. Many industries, including landscaping and hospitality locally, are desperate for workers of various skill sets including low skilled workers. Low skilled immigrants are an essential labor pool for these industries and local businesses are desperate to hire these workers.
Immigrants, including low skilled workers, could help us grow our economy. The American Enterprise Institute estimated that if we increased immigration to the US Net migration level of 200 we could grow GDP by an additional 0.2-0.3%, more if we targeted the industries in need like hospitality, agriculture, and landscaping.
This is because low skilled immigrant workers do not displace native workers on a macro level. Evidence suggests that unlike job off-shoring, immigration has a “positive net effect on productivity and employment of native workers.”
However, the administration seems to be taking a different tack. Delaying the US “startup visa” shows that the administration is not interested in expanding the workforce with qualified entrepreneurs who could help to grow our economy.
Similarly, the current proposal does not emphasize or boost skills based immigration it simply cuts other legal immigration. This does not address the needs of the business community and is counterproductive to growth.