Visible Hands: Immigrants, We Get the Job Done 🤝
“Give me your tired, your poor…” and your educated, your highly skilled...
On Monday, Trump’s executive order that temporarily suspended new work visas and extended restrictions on green card issuances faced outcry from business leaders. This order could force “as many as 525,000 foreign workers out of the country for the rest of the year.” Although the policy was enacted to maintain employment opportunities for Americans during the current downturn, businesses claim they will be unable to fill jobs that Americans are unwilling or incapable of doing.
This comes a week after the Supreme Court upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed Dreamers to maintain U.S. work authorization.
Setting aside the moral arguments supporting open borders and America’s ethos as a “melting pot”, immigration helps the bottom line:
From Stanford: “Immigrants are more productive than natives...despite immigrants only making up 16% of inventors, they are responsible for 30% of aggregate U.S. innovation since 1976, with their indirect spillover effects accounting for more than twice their direct productivity contribution.”
From the ACLU: “Immigrants pay more than $90 billion in taxes every year.”
From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Immigrants bolster our national birth rate, which has recently dropped to historically low levels among the native-born population. A low birth rate can lead to a decline in the labor force, ...reduced home prices due to weaker demand), and a slowing and less dynamic economy.”
From Dartmouth: “Immigrant workers are imperfectly substitutable for native‐born workers with similar education and experience” largely due to language barriers. Meaning immigrants are not taking jobs from Americans.
One of the now suspended visas is the H-1B, which is the main way companies sponsor workers with technical expertise. Tech companies, including Amazon and Google, employ a significant number of these visa holders. H-1Bs usually entail a competitive lottery and approval process with a cap of 85,000 workers a year (<1% of the US workforce). As most applicants are turned away, many international students can’t contribute to the US economy longer term. Since STEM graduates have a 3-year period before they must “win” the lottery and visa approval, versus 1 year for non-STEM students, some business schools have even created more STEM-focused curriculums to enable these students to work in the US longer.
But there are more problems with this system. For better or worse, companies have immense influence over employees’ immigration status through their sponsorship and have used this to unfairly treat employees. According to a 2020 survey of workers from Lyft, Amazon, Facebook, Deloitte, and other large corporations, H-1B employees “are hyper-aware of their temporary, employer-dependent livelihoods” and often feel “like an underclass, with stressful working conditions and discrimination due to their visa status.” This pressure can have tragic consequences.
And immigrants have also been underpaid. In 2019, the Labor Department found that Oracle demonstrated a preference for “Asian H-1B visa holders, whom the company then pays less than their citizen counterparts.” And a 2015 study found that “37% of unauthorized immigrant workers were victims of minimum wage violations.”
It’s not enough for these companies to simply support pro-immigration policies when they’re not also improving their employment practices…
As an employee:
According to Justia, employees “are not required to tell your employer that your work permit is based on DACA.” Employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against workers based on citizenship or immigration status.
What to do if you or a coworker are facing discrimination because of race, ethnicity, or national origin at work.
“What’s needed is to lift standards for all workers...Programs need to be reformed since right now the system only benefits employers, not H-1B or U.S. workers.” - Michael Wasser, legislative director at Department for Professional Employees
As a citizen:
New American Economy’s Cities Index evaluates which of America’s 100 largest cities promote successful immigrant integration by measuring local policies and socioeconomic outcomes. Here’s their top 10 along with best city-level practices policy-wise.
As a consumer:
This isn’t the first time Trump has called for an immigration ban. In 2017, the New York Times published a list of companies and industries that were silent on his 2017 ban. Take a look at which companies you’re supporting that didn’t challenge Trump then for who may be unlikely to challenge now.
As an investor:
Check out Unshackled VC for examples of how VCs can ease frictions for immigrant founders. They “provide the 'friends and family' capital immigrant teams often don't have...[and] sponsor visas, provide full immigration support, and a community of resources.”
Fun fact: “more than 50% of private US-based unicorns, as of October 1, 2018, had at least one immigrant founder.”
A Black Man’s ‘Million-Dollar Save’ Jump-Started GM’s Long, Hard Diversity Push: “While never explicitly told he was held back because of the color of his skin, he said he experienced barriers to pay increases and advancement no matter how well he performed. ‘You had all these posters hanging everywhere saying ‘we are fair and inclusive,’ but the white guys didn’t see it that way.’”
What’s Facebook’s Deal With Donald Trump?: “Mr. Zuckerberg’s warm relationship with the president and his family is a victory for the company’s internal policy team led by Mr. Kaplan. But the company, people involved in its political strategy say, has been having an internal debate over balancing the reality of Republican control of regulatory agencies with the fact that Democrats are far more likely, in the long run, to actually push through new oversight or try to break up the company by forcing the sale of Instagram or WhatsApp.”
Jeff Ubben Quits ValueAct for Social Investing: “Finance is, like, done. Everybody’s bought everybody else with low-cost debt. Everybody’s maximised their margin. They’ve bought all their shares back . . . There’s nothing there. Every industry has about three players. Elizabeth Warren is right.”
Missouri Court Cuts Talc-Powder Verdict Against J&J to $2.1 Billion: “Many suits allege that talc-containing powders caused ovarian cancer in women who used it for feminine hygiene for many years. Other lawsuits say that inhalation of the powder caused a rare cancer called mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs.”
These Companies Gave Their C.E.O.s Millions, Just Before Bankruptcy: “This is not the first time that executive pay at troubled companies has prompted an outcry. Congress passed a law in 2005 aimed at curbing retention bonuses paid during bankruptcy….Congress could change bankruptcy law so that compensation payments made before the filing could be clawed back, Mr. Ellias said. In addition, lawmakers could make it easier for creditors to pursue claims against executives after the bankruptcy.”
📚 Book club reminder: We started a summer book club! We’ll be reading The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis -- expect a virtual meet-up in July to chat about it (details to come next week), but get the book if you’re interested in joining! And we plan to do another one in August, so please vote on what else we should read this summer here.
Reader spotlight: Check out Gorongosa Coffee, which sells specialty coffee that directly supports girls' education, wildlife, and rainforest conservation in Mozambique.
Stay connected with us through Instagram, Medium, Twitter, and, of course, email (email@example.com)! Please invite any friends, roommates, coworkers, armchair activists, and immigration lawyers to join the movement.