By Noah Smith
These are tough times for pro-immigration forces in the United States. President Donald Trump took advantage of this moment of confusion and distraction to issue a 60-day ban on most applications for permanent residence, showing that the administration has the same intentions as it initially directed its actions toward both legal immigration, as well as illegal.
Trump’s top anti-immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, said Trump will try to extend this ban indefinitely and end most administrative immigration. And because of escalating tensions with China over the coronavirus and other problems, immigration opponents, such as Republican Senator Tom Cotton, are proposing that Chinese students studying science and technology at American universities be expelled.RELATED
Even if the courts reject Trump’s new ban and former Vice President Joe Biden overcomes it in the fall election, the economic downturn caused by the pandemic will likely depress migration for years. USA It has been particularly affected by the coronavirus and will surely suffer from painful and lasting depression. That will make it a less attractive destination for international talent, which could flow to less affected places like Canada and Australia.
But the coronavirus is only putting the finishing touches on what was already a highly successful Trump administration immigration restriction campaign. Years of nativist rhetoric and administrative harassment had already led to a sharp reduction in the net number of foreigners who moved to the US, from more than 800,000 in 2017 to just over 200,000 in 2018. A series of changes in the The Trump administration’s policy had already slowed the flow of Central American refugees to the United States.
Trump is not the only reason immigration to the United States has decreased. The great wave of Mexican immigration that began in the 1980s ended a decade before he took office. The Secure Fencing Act of 2006 effectively built a border wall, while the Secure Communities program reinforced internal security and deportations during the Barack Obama administration.
Meanwhile, fertility rates in Mexico fell sharply and the Mexican economy improved moderately, reducing pressure on Mexicans to migrate north in search of work. This combination of factors caused the Mexican-born US population to shrink by hundreds of thousands between the mid-2000s and early 2010s:
Because of the end of the Mexican wave, low-skilled immigration to the United States generally plummeted. However, highly skilled immigration remained strong:
Most of these educated immigrants came from Asia. Asian immigration outpaced Latin American immigration in the mid-2000s, and Asian-Americans were on their way to becoming the largest ethnic group born outside the country. That wave may also have diminished over time, as better economic opportunities in China and India created alternatives to the American dream. But Trump’s restrictive policies have prematurely stifled it.
Thus, American immigration is constrained by a remarkable confluence of events: economic growth and declining fertility in other countries, the political success of American nativists, and the coronavirus pandemic. This will combine to produce a lasting immigration pause similar to the one that began in the 1920s, when nativist laws, and later the Great Depression and World War II, stifled immigration for a generation.
In the short term, reducing immigration will probably not affect the economy much. In normal times, highly-skilled immigration stimulates local labor markets and tax revenues, while low-skilled immigration leaves them largely unchanged. But with jobs and growth limited by the pandemic and depression, even skilled immigration is unlikely to spur economic growth.
Typically, the presence of qualified immigrants helps create knowledge groups in urban areas, where ideas can be easily exchanged and local employers have access to a broad pool of talents; But when everyone works from home, these local effects don’t matter. And tax revenue will be limited by bankruptcy closings. The main sector that will suffer in the short term is, ironically, the health system due to the shortage of foreign nurses who want to come to the United States. to help treat patients with coronavirus.
In the long term, the results of a generation-long immigration break will be more apparent. Due to the drop in fertility in the USA And with the aging population, fewer youth workers will be available to support retirees. More places will be emptied in the center of the country and will become half-inhabited ghost towns, full of resentment and heroin.
Unable to recruit the best and brightest in India, Nigeria and Vietnam, the information technology and biotech industries will cut expansion plans, move operations overseas, or simply be defeated by their competitors from China and other countries. And scientific research, the backbone of US prosperity and industrial supremacy, will decline without foreign graduate students and temporary visa workers supporting the research system.
The impact on US capacity to compete with China will be especially serious. With only a quarter of the population of its great rival, the not so secret weapon of the USA. It was always his ability to keep his population growing through immigration and to maintain his leadership in the technology industry by recruiting qualified foreigners.
With immigration stopped, the US it will have very little advantage in the technological, scientific, economic and geopolitical cold war that is emerging. Those in the Chinese government seeking to take the place of the US As the world’s leading power, they can only be satisfied with this turn of events.
Immigration was going to decrease anyway, but there was no need to close the country in the same way as in the 1920s. The results of Trump’s actions will not be felt immediately, but will eventually erode the foundations of what he does. from USA an exceptional nation.