From the instant that President Joe Biden takes office, he’ll be under heavy pressure from his base to undo President Trump’s immigration-related Executive Orders. But in most cases, reversing what President Trump has done will be easier said than done.
Among the greatest challenges to Biden’s administration will be its response to President Trump’s December 31 extension of his earlier temporary ban on some employment-based visas. During his first 100 days in office, Biden will be pushed hard to override President Trump’s Executive Order with his own that ends the pause.
Powerful Silicon Valley forces including Facebook, Google and Twitter – major contributors to Biden’s election – will seek their reward in the form of more H-1B, L-1, H-4 and J-1 visas. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his tech allies are certain to hammer away at their age-old and discredited messaging that more foreign workers are essential to their financial survival and that no qualified Americans are available. Inside the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, assuming the Senate confirms his nomination, will reinforce Silicon Valley’s anti-U.S. shut-out of American IT workers and Big Tech’s self-serving claims.
In June, as the coronavirus pandemic was battering the economy, and forcing employers to furlough or fire workers, President Trump issued his employment-based visa pause. The President’s early summer order expired December 31, but defending American workers, Trump issued an extension set to lapse in March 2021.
Explaining his extension, Trump wrote that COVID-19’s effect on the U.S. labor market and on American communities’ health is an ongoing national concern. The current number of new daily worldwide cases announced by the World Health Organization, President Trump wrote, continues at unacceptably high numbers, and the U.S. labor market remains weak, with communities vulnerable.
Because of President Trump’s extension, Biden will immediately find himself between a rock and a hard place. First, Biden’s central campaign issue was ending the coronavirus pandemic. Biden harshly criticized President Trump for what he perceived as the president’s ineffectiveness in controlling the virus. But admitting more foreign nationals from countries that haven’t successfully tamed the virus is risk-laden for the incoming Biden administration. Importing COVID-19 infected migrants, a strong possibility without rigorous health vetting, would be a devastating beginning for the new president.
Second, grim employment statistics make a strong case for maintaining President Trump’s ban, a task that will be tough for Biden when Silicon Valley approaches him to collect its IOUs. Nearly 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Adding thousands more overseas workers to the more than one million annual lifetime employment-authorized lawful permanent residents creates a nearly insurmountable hurdle for U.S. job seekers.
Not only does Biden plan to expand the long list of existing visas, he’s committed to a program that would allow any executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas provided employers in those regions certify that there are available jobs, and no American workers are available to fill them. In the Biden administration, any immigration policy is possible, even one as outrageous and dangerous as this hairbrained scheme that would be crippling to low-skilled American workers.
On the upside, a temporizing variable may restrain Biden. The 2022 House of Representatives race is already underway, and Democrats took an unexpectedly heavy hit in November. The touted “Blue Wave” never hit shore; the GOP added about 12 seats to its caucus, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi barely held on to her leadership post. Even in far-left California, Republicans flipped three seats.
The 2020 House results should serve as a warning to the incoming Biden administration that the nation isn’t prepared for a radical overhaul, immigration included. Over-immigration ranks high among Americans’ concerns, and Biden should tread lightly. He risks losing the House in 2022, and assuming he’ll seek it, the presidency in 2024.