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Monday, August 3, 2020

Manufacturers warn recovery could falter without more immigration

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President Trump’s coronavirus immigration pause could stunt the recovery by preventing key managers from multinational companies from being able to come into the U.S. to get their operations moving again, the National Association of Manufacturers warned Monday.

Jay Timmons, NAM’s president, told Mr. Trump in a letter that the “resurgence is put at risk” by the current policy, which as of June 22 blocks many key guest-workers from arriving in the U.S. for the rest of the year.

Mr. Timmons said some companies, such as pharmaceuticals, may shift research overseas because they won’t be able to bring top-level scientists here. And plant managers from global companies, such as automobile manufacturing, won’t be able to come to ramp up production.

“We are facing an unprecedented economic situation, but not all parts of the economy, all sectors, all employers and all communities are impacted in the same way,” Mr. Timmons wrote. “The June 22 proclamation disregards this economic reality and imposes a one-size-fits-all restriction on employers that is inconsistent with the complex and calibrated system established by our immigration laws.”

He called for the president to cancel the order altogether, or at least add exceptions for “critical industries.”

The immigration pause began in April with a two-month blockade on some new legal permanent immigration, covering perhaps 25,000 people a month.

In June, Mr. Trump expanded that pause through the rest of the year, and added in hundreds of thousands of temporary legal visas like H-1B program covering high-skilled workers, and the H-2B program for seasonal non-agriculture employment such as lifeguarding at summer resorts, or staffing landscaping.

The White House has cast the moves as a way to block foreign competitors from arriving to undercut Americans who are now out of work amid the pandemic but seeking to regain jobs.

But the White House has shown a willingness to exempt some immigration in cases where it feels those newcomers will spur the recovery, such as the EB-5 program, also known as the “golden visa.” Under EB-5, wealthy investors willing to pony up at least $900,000 for a job-creating investment can enter the U.S.

Administration officials say that kind of investment could help the recovery. The EB-5 program is also used by companies associated with the family of Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor, Jared Kushner.

The economy added 4.8 million jobs back last month and the unemployment rate stood at 11.1%, still the worst since the Great Depression, but a significant improvement from April, when it topped 14%.


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