2020 was an odd year. But 2021 may be even odder as Joe Biden will likely have to support a foreign guest worker freeze — an unimaginable concept that has now become a reality.
Last week, President Trump extended Proclamation 10052, an executive order suspending temporary foreign guest worker programs — including the H-1B and H-2B — as well as some green cards, through March. While the move has certainly helped improve wages and job opportunities for displaced Americans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains a temporary order. With the country facing an economic crisis for the foreseeable future, a broad range of Americans showing support for foreign worker restrictions, and the potential for political repercussions, Joe Biden must not rescind it.
Despite seeing improvements in our economy from the low points of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country still faces an economic crisis and Joe Biden needs to protect American workers immediately when he enters the Oval Office.
The national unemployment rate hovered around 6.7% in November, but this was nearly double the rate of last January. This high unemployment rate caused 787,000 Americans to file for unemployment benefits the week before Christmas — a figure roughly three-and-a-half times higher than in the same period in 2019.
With a large number of Americans seeking employment, it would be immoral to bring in foreign guest workers to compete for jobs and also depress wages. In fact, according to the White House, between February and April of 2020, more than 37 million jobs were lost in industries in which employers were seeking to fill positions tied to H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visas — visas frozen in the president’s order.
As the president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden has an obligation to prioritize the American workforce who have been hit hard by unprecedented circumstances — not foreign cheap labor.
The proclamation is also largely supported by the American public as they understand that foreign labor, especially during a global pandemic, can bring economic consequences.
A 2020 USA Today/IPSOS poll found that 79 percent of the American public — across all party, ideological and demographic lines — support curtailing immigration and guest worker admissions.
In other recent polling, strong majorities of voters in ten battleground states agreed that “limiting admission of new immigrants and guest workers will improve the chances of laid-off American workers being rehired.”
2020 exit polling — conducted several months after the low point of the pandemic — found that voters strongly favored continued border restrictions and tight limits on admission of foreign guest workers during the ongoing health and economic crisis.
With the American public openly expressing support for the order, Biden must listen to his voters and respect their needs.
Should Biden ignore the American public and the nation’s economic crisis by not extending the order, he will likely face significant political complications. The state of the nation’s economy is overwhelmingly the most important political issue for voters in America — topping health care, immigration and crime. If Biden were to unravel this order, he would essentially be saying he does not care about protecting the American workers facing very difficult employment conditions. Instead, his defiance would reveal that he is more interested in meeting the checkboxes of the radical left’s immigration agenda — which disdains any restrictions on immigration.
Capitulating to the demand of the radical left would undermine other parts of Biden’s core constituency. The president-elect performed better with the younger generation in the 2020 election — so much so that this group could be considered the deciding factor that pushed him over 270 electoral votes. With a large number of these individuals just entering the workforce, many are looking to Biden to champion their interests – chief among them, landing a job.
The order remains in effect until March and during this time Biden will have to determine if it is worth renewing. Should he quickly rescind this proclamation, he will have to answer to the American people and tell them why he decided to increase immigration and restore unfettered access to guest workers in the midst of an economic crisis.
When he takes office on Jan. 20, Mr. Biden will inherit myriad challenges. It will serve neither his, nor the country’s interests to add to those challenges by rescinding effective policies that enjoy broad public support.
Matthew Tragesser is the press secretary at Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).