The United States closed the door to almost all incoming foreign workers last year. The causes were Covid-19 restrictions that blocked global borders and Trump administration policies that drastically reduced work visas, with the exception of agricultural workers. The effect was an unexpected experiment in one of the most debated issues in the country: the relationship between the labor market and immigration.
The preliminary finding: Even with unemployment soaring in the United States, businesses that relied on foreign workers and were able to stay open during the pandemic struggled to fill jobs, employers said.
Unemployed American workers weren’t interested in jobs normally held by foreign employees at the seasonal, low end of the job market, and the visa ban did not help those who weren’t qualified for skilled jobs at the higher end, according to Alex Nowrasteh. , director of immigration studies at the Libertarian Cato Institute.
In April, when the pandemic began, the Trump administration temporarily barred potential green card holders from moving to the US in search of work and permanent residence. In June, Trump expanded the ban to include most temporary work visas, except for farm workers, citing health risks and a rising unemployment rate in the United States. President Biden has not announced his plans for a work visa ban, which runs through March.
These visa programs are a small part of the big picture of immigration; they do not include the broader migration to the US of people for reasons such as fleeing violence or poverty, or joining family members. Work visa programs are targeted at specific categories, even niche ones; They include temporary visas for nannies and foreign students who work as lifeguards, and long-term visas for high-tech workers and foreigners who start their own businesses here.