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Employers have for the most part not been the focus of the Trump administration’s first 100 days of immigration policy, but they should be ready when the administration sets its sights beyond enforcement priorities, practitioners say.
President Donald Trump’s actions have “generally matched” his campaign promises on immigration, and that means employers have largely not been targeted, Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute office at the New York University School of Law, told Bloomberg BNA April 24. Policies on employer-focused immigration programs, such as the E-Verify employment verification system, weren’t discussed by Trump “with the same intensity” as interior enforcement actions, so employers have some time to prepare for and weigh in on policies, he said.
One employment area Trump has focused on is H-1B visas, and employers that use the visas for highly skilled workers should be prepared, Chishti said.
Trump’s Buy American and Hire American executive order, signed April 18, calls on various agencies to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to “the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” H-1B visas currently are handed out by lottery.
Although the purpose of the order is to encourage companies to look for workers within the U.S. first, it’s not clear how Trump’s changes to the H-1B program will address the concerns of displaced U.S. workers, Chishti said. “It’s not clear what this will lead to,” he said.
The Trump administration has yet to meaningfully examine immigration policies that affect employment, panelists said April 24 at an event sponsored by the MPI.
The administration missed an opportunity to include provisions in the H-1B executive order that would have accounted for the U.S.'s role in the future global workforce and the next wave of innovation, said Stewart Verdery, a partner at Monument Policy Group and former Department of Homeland Security official.
Julie Myers Wood, chief executive officer of Guidepost Solutions and a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement director, agreed. “That’s exactly right,” Myers Wood said. “You have to have a champion in the administration that cares about the bigger picture of the skilled worker visa program.”
For employers, it’s too early to tell the economic effects of Trump’s immigration policies, Verdery said. As time goes on, the administration will likely see business interests stepping up to weigh in on changes to student visa policies and policy changes that affect the tech industry and manufacturing, he said.
For now, however, there are few aspects of the administration’s immigration policy “that think of immigration as part of the solution of America’s place in a global economy,” said Chishti, who spoke at the panel and with Bloomberg BNA in a follow-up interview.
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