Jun 23, 2020

Trump suspends immigrant visas.

Trump suspends immigrant visas.

Plus, reader stories about the fireworks.

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Today’s read: 9 minutes.

Trump’s order banning immigration visas, all the fireworks stories people sent in and some very important “quick hits.”

Stephen Miller, who is largely credited for being the architect of Trump’s immigration policy. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikicommons)

Quick hits.

  1. The primary races happening across the U.S. today will “test progressive Democratic momentum,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Primary elections are taking place in New York, Virginia and Kentucky, with a number of progressive Democratic candidates on the ballot. Turnout is a total wildcard given the COVID-19 pandemic and prevalence of absentee ballots, so the party is watching closely to see what happens.
  2. Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan says she is moving to peacefully dismantle CHOP (formerly CHAZ), the Seattle protest zone recently dubbed the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. Two weekend shootings in the CHOP have forced the mayor’s hand, and she says police will move back into a precinct building they had largely abandoned in the area. Durkan vowed to address some of the protesters’ demands, including investing more money into black communities and “re-imagining policing.”
  3. The House Judiciary panel plans to subpoena Attorney General William Barr for testimony before Congress. Pressure ramped up to subpoena Barr after he abruptly removed Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor, Geoffrey Berman. Republicans largely shrugged off the removal but Democrats say it’s more evidence of Trump protecting his allies. Barr is not expected to comply with the subpoena.
  4. We probably won’t have an election result the night of the presidential race, The Washington Post reports. The prevalence of absentee ballots sent in via mail has left several primary elections up in the air for days or weeks after voting concluded. The same is expected today in New York and Kentucky. Now, the presidential election — barring a landslide victory — is expected to be up in the air for days on end as ballots are counted.
  5. President Trump told aides he supports a second round of stimulus checks to Americans, suspecting it could bolster the economy and his re-election chances as the economic damage of COVID-19 persists. Leading congressional Republicans seem opposed to more stimulus checks, though, and some remain skeptical of Trump’s support for the idea. The White House is yet to take an official position on the matter.

What D.C. is talking about.

Immigration. President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning new immigrants from the U.S. who come here on certain work visas, including the popular H-1B visa for high-skilled workers. The restrictions go into effect on June 24th and will last through the end of the year. The Migration Policy Institute estimates the restrictions will block 325,000 immigrants and their family members, while the Trump administration claims some 525,000 immigrants will be kept out.

An H1-B visa is called a “non-immigrant” visa that’s a specialty work visa that allows companies to employ graduate-level workers in fields like IT, finance, accounting, engineering and medicine. It’s one of the largest guest worker visa programs in the entire United States. For many, it’s an alternative to applying for a U.S. green card, which can require years of waiting. H-1B visas are not “applied” for, but are petitioned for by employers on behalf of the employees.

The order also temporarily bans H-2B visas for short-term seasonal workers in landscaping or nonfarm jobs, J-1 visas for short-term workers like counselors, researchers or au pairs, and L-1 visas for internal company transfers (people moving from an office abroad to an office in the United States).

What the left is saying.

The debate over H-1B visas has been raging for years. The left generally takes the stance that bringing in highly skilled workers from other countries is a fantastic way to improve a company’s trajectory, and that H-1B workers aren’t stealing American jobs. Companies have to “attest” that an H-1B worker will be paid the same as an American, which the left argues prevents them from driving down wages (note: there are many well-documented loopholes that allow companies to hire H-1B workers for less than they might pay an American worker).

Generally speaking, H-1B visas have been shown to bring in needed skill to the labor market. There is no shortage in demand for jobs related to tech and science, and there’s been plenty of academic research showing that H-1B visas boost the economy and innovation in the U.S.

The H-1B and L-1 visas are particularly popular with the United States’ tech giants, who absolutely blasted the move. H-1B workers account for 12-13% of all jobs in the tech industry, according to a 2017 Harvard Business Review report.

“Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” Thomas J. Donohue, the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said. “Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth and reduce job creation.”

It’d also be one thing if the administration were targeting a narrow subset of immigrants — but it’s not. Banning all these temporary work visas is going to keep out everyone from foreign professors to farmworkers, which will do nothing to help accelerate America’s growth. In fact, it very well may do the opposite: H-1B holders are often responsible for new innovations or products. J-1 visa holders include au pairs and researchers. And just a few weeks ago, H-2B workers were being catered to because of how essential they are to our food supply chain.

What the right is saying.

It’s mixed. The Trump administration claims the ban will safeguard jobs for unemployed Americans and focus the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic on American workers. Immigration hard-liners were largely responsible for pressuring the administration into the move, including Stephen Miller, one of President Trump’s closest aides and the architect of his immigration policy.

“I’m very heartened by this action—not only the scope of it but also the time frame of the suspension, because it means that employers can’t just hold their breath and wait until it’s over,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates lower levels of immigration.

Hardliners like Miller or Vaughan have long argued that programs like H-1B do more to employ IT services firms than boost tech companies or employers in need of highly skilled workers. A 2014 analysis found that one-third of new H-1B visas went to companies that were outsourcing IT jobs abroad to countries like India, and that those IT services companies were hiring lower-paying entry-level jobs that could have gone to Americans. This is the central criticism of H-1B programs: instead of bringing in the “best and brightest,” the right contends the program is really allowing cheaper foreign labor to run rampant in a way that can hurt American workers’ employment and income prospects.

One of the most classic examples of this came in 2015, when American workers at Disney lost their jobs to H-1B visa holders, and then had to train foreign workers replacing them before they left. The situation was repeated at a few major companies across the U.S., and became a symbolic example of everything wrong with the program.

Others on the right are less pleased. The executive order actually broadens and extends changes Trump already made, and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have been criticizing them from the get-go.

“Legal immigration is a positive for the American economy, and visa programs allowing American companies to secure qualified, legal labor throughout the world have benefitted economic growth in the United States,” Graham tweeted. “Those who believe legal immigration, particularly work visas, are harmful to the American worker do not understand the American economy. Work visas for temporary and seasonal jobs covering industries like hospitality, forestry, and many economic sectors can only be issued AFTER American workers have had a chance to fill the job position.”

My take.

First, I want to acknowledge the human element of this: it’s going to impact hundreds of thousands of people — and families — who have been waiting for months or years to get legal access to the United States. I have friends who are trying to sort out living arrangements, marriages, wedding plans, spending thousands of dollars on applications to the U.S. to make one spouse a legal resident — and waiting months at a time before being denied. Now, those plans get dynamited overnight.

Second, it’s also worth acknowledging that the exemptions and finer points of this are still unclear. This order appears to block the spouses of foreigners who are employed at companies in the U.S. It could ban au pairs who come here to care for children, though it’s not totally clear since the administration bungled its roll out (first they said au pairs would be exempt, then they said au pairs could seek waivers to the ban on a case-by-case basis, now they have mostly gone dark). The administration said exemptions will be made for workers who “are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States,” though that’s a very vague outline. But it sounds like folks researching COVID-19, for instance, will be exempt.

As for the outcome here: there’s so much literature and data on immigration, especially on the H-1B visa program, that you can pretty much find any research you want from any website you want to confirm your priors. But we don’t so much have to look at all the studies and research out there as we have to look at American history — and simply consider the basic outlines of what Trump is doing.

This has been tried before. President Herbert Hoover deported 500,000 Mexican workers and reduced legal immigration during the Great Depression. Most research suggests it had a negative effect on wages and job opportunities. At best, it did nothing. In 1964, the U.S. terminated the Bracero program that brought in Mexican laborers. Ending lower-skilled migration for farmworkers slowed wage growth.

Even part of the right’s best argument — that H-1B programs go largely to IT jobs and foreign workers — is actually self-defeating. Those IT workers just helped transition a huge chunk of our economy from office jobs to remote work, and without them there’s a good argument to be made that some jobs wouldn’t have survived the COVID-19 transition. As Alex Nowratesh wrote for the Cato Institute, “This is exactly the time to boost the number of IT workers in the United States through migration, not to cut it.” H-1B workers are also disproportionately likely to patent new products or make new discoveries in research that help set off productivity and economic growth.

Finally, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that the most impacted workers will be some 117,000 J-1 visa workers who are overwhelmingly people doing research, training, work and study exchange visitor programs. This is the program au pairs use to come here. It’s also a program for medical professionals, professors, researchers, people coming for medical training, and all sorts of other “cultural exchange” programs.

Banning these workers shows Trump’s cards. The idea that J-1 visa workers are “stealing American jobs” or would slow down the recovery is nonsensical. They’re either here on work exchange programs because they are already employed by American companies or they are coming here to learn alongside Americans and experience American institutions or family life. In fact, many come here through the Summer Work and Travel Program, which is basically a model for the “merit-based” immigration Trump claims to support — participants have to meet English speaking requirements, have job prospects here and attend a foreign university. These are the people we’re trying to keep out?

The closer you look, the less this looks like an American recovery act and the more it looks like an opportunity to close our borders to new immigrants. Nowratesh gave the most compelling opinion of this plan — and why it will be bad for the economy — that I’ve read. You can read it for yourself here.

My questions, answered.

Reminder: Reader questions are my favorite part of Tangle. You can ask a reader question by simply replying to this email. Today I am not answering a reader question, but instead sharing the answers to MY question from yesterday’s newsletter.

Yesterday, at the end of my response to a reader question about fireworks, I asked all of you to send in your stories about the fireworks and experiences you were having across the country. Here is what I wrote:

What have you seen in your city? What have you heard? Let me know and I’ll share some thoughts and reactions from across the country. You can always send in tips, feedback or thoughts by simply replying to this email — it goes straight to my inbox.

I thought this would be a cool thing to crowdsource and… I was right. Many of you wrote in about what you were experiencing and had experienced.

Jordan from Harlem said a neighbor told him someone was “driving up and down 5th avenue” trying to sell fireworks out of their car. Gabe from Brooklyn sent me this article about all the fireworks stores on I-78 seeing huge demand in the northeast.

Paul and Ted from Philadelphia said they were hearing fireworks “every damn night” and Paul said he saw a group of teenagers lighting them off at a local park. Charlie from Chicago said the fireworks were “happening all around,” seemingly in every direction, and definitely seemed to be the “mortar type” you see at big fireworks shows.

Nate from Pittsburgh said he was hearing a few every night, though the culprit seems to be the same guy each time and he brags about it on Facebook. “I think he's just generally an inconsiderate, bored, jagoff,” Nate said (“jagoff” is Pittsburgh speak for a dumb or irritating person. I miss Pittsburgh). Jess from Jersey City said she’s hearing about 3-4 per day there, and when she was in Allentown, PA last week, she heard fireworks all throughout the day.

Scott from Los Angeles said it’s “nuts” there and that he was glad to see my line about excuses for petty crime as a kid, noting that he used that line (“someone gave them to me”) about 150 times in his own youth. Jonathan from Denver, Colorado said “fireworks have been non stop here” and kept him and his family up until 1 a.m. last night.

I also got some interesting notes. Bennett from Charleston, South Carolina, said he was hearing lots of fireworks every night. He also said the driver of a black SUV recently sped down their street and fired nine rounds from a handgun, and had previously been reported in the neighborhood shooting off fireworks out his car window. It sounds like an isolated incident, but the police apparently found the shells in the street.

Finally, Christine from Santiago, Chile, said she was “shocked to learn about the post-protests fireworks pattern over there in the US” since the civil unrest that took place in Chile from October to January followed an “identical pattern.”

“Between the various peaks of protests individuals were setting off firecrackers in the night at all hours,” she said. “Eventually I (& most Chileans I am close to) chalked it up to certain parties not feeling heard and wanting to continue to make noise (as literally as possible, with firecrackers) as well as other parties who just wanted to further the chaos and general lack of peace.”

Thanks for all your answers and responses. They were really interesting to go through — and tomorrow I’ll be back with a response to a reader question about the Supreme Court!

A story that matters.

COVID-19 relief is ending. $600 federal benefits, eviction reprieve and cash for small firms made up the extraordinary safety net that has kept much of the American economy alive since mid-March. But in the coming weeks, each of these programs is set to wind down. No more federal weekly unemployment checks or eviction reprieves will be in place. Many small businesses will lose access to forgivable federal loans. Congress has yet to map out a plan forward, but many American business leaders and economists say the programs need to be extended — even if they are scaled down. “We put a great deal of support into propping up the economy in the short run,” Jay Shambaugh, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. “That prevented the immediate economic impacts from being much worse. But the economic impacts of the pandemic will last more than a handful of months. It is really important to tie the fiscal support to economic conditions… rather than have policies end with a cliff based on arbitrary timelines.” Click.


  • 69%. The percentage of Americans who say the criminal justice system needs a complete overhaul (29%) or major changes (40%).
  • 87%. The percentage of Americans who strongly (64%) or somewhat favor (19%) requiring police officers to report peer misconduct.
  • 88%. The percentage of Americans who strongly (71%) or somewhat favor (17%) requiring the use of body cameras.
  • 85%. The percentage of Americans who strongly (63%) or somewhat favor (22%) prosecuting officers who use excessive force.
  • 46%. The percentage of Americans who strongly (22%) or somewhat favor (24%) reducing the focus on policing low-level offenses.
  • 25%. The percentage of Americans who strongly (13%) or somewhat favor (12%) reducing funding for law enforcement.
  • 39%. The percentage of U.S. adults who say that depictions of Confederate leaders (e.g. statues or paintings) should be allowed in government buildings and public spaces.
  • 45%. The percent of U.S. adults who say that depictions of Confederate leaders (e.g., statues or paintings) should not be allowed in government buildings and public spaces.

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Have a nice day.

U.S. honeybee colonies have made a turn for the better after a frighteningly bad year. American honeybees bounced back this year, and beekeepers lost just 22.2% of their colonies this past winter (on average, they lose 28.6% during the winter). It was the second smallest winter loss in the 14 years of surveying done by different U.S. universities. Last year, beekeepers lost 37.7% of their colonies, which continued into the summer when beekeepers recorded a 32% loss rate. The news in 2018-2019 set off widespread alarm about the negative environmental chain reaction that would take place if bee colonies were further depleted. The news about this winter’s rate is being celebrated. “One would hope that a lower winter loss means a better 2020 assuming that the weather cooperates and beekeepers don’t end up skimping on colony management,” University of Montana bee expert Jerry Bromenshenk said. Click.

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