Ask The Experts

Experts discuss Trump’s executive order on visa program reform, order’s potential economic impacts

Lucy Naland | Presentation Director

Trump signed an executive order last week in an attempt to reform the awarding of H-1B visas to foreign workers.

Syracuse University experts agree that President Donald Trump’s recent executive order aimed at reforming the visa awarding process for foreign workers won’t impact the United States economy or relations with China.

Trump signed an executive order last week in an attempt to reform the awarding of H-1B visas to foreign workers. The order also strengthens procedures in an attempt to ensure American goods are used for federal projects, according to The Washington Post.

An H-1B visa allows American companies to hire workers in “specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise,” according to Any professional occupation that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher qualifies is considered a specialty occupation.

A H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, and the application process for one is usually faster than that for a U.S. green card. This makes the H-1B visa a popular option for employers who want to bring in employees for long-term projects in the U.S.

Throughout his campaign, Trump discussed policy proposals that would promote American-made goods and manufacturing and condemned the outsourcing of labor to countries such as China. SU experts said this executive order represents Trump’s first action to promote his “Buy American, Hire American” agenda.

Experts also said that the order is unlikely to affect U.S.-China relations. Trump has frequently criticized China and previously called it the world’s “single greatest currency manipulator,” according to CNN, although he has since reversed that position. Trade with China eliminated about 1 million U.S. manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2007, according to NPR.

Dimitar Gueorguiev, an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said things are changing quickly both in the U.S. and China. It’s unlikely that jobs lost to China will return to the U.S., he said. Gueorguiev added that many of these jobs will likely leave China as well and keep moving to other parts of the developing world.

The scope of the executive order is primarily limited to the federal government, so it won’t affect relations with China, said Christopher Faricy, an assistant professor of political science at the Maxwell School.

Experts agree that the executive order won’t have much of an impact on the U.S. economy. The impact will be small, Faricy said, because the country’s economy is large and complex.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Faricy said. “It’s in a large part driven by thousands of decisions made across an international economic landscape, and something like this was already previously in place. President Trump is just slightly expanding on it.”

But Gueorguiev said there may be a shift of wealth from consumers to producers. If Americans are encouraged to buy American goods, they are in a way being asked to pay a higher price for goods, he said. This will lead to a transfer of wealth from the consumer to the American producer.

“Assuming this does compel Americans to buy American, we risk losing competitiveness in some of our product lines,” Gueorguiev said. There may be short-term gains, he added, but long terms costs if the U.S. is at the forefront of innovation.

Faricy said Trump’s executive order was a symbolic gesture. Other than possible trade deals, the professor said he doesn’t expect to see any other efforts from the administration to enforce the “buy American, hire American” policy.

Symbolically, the order may send a signal that the Trump administration will continue to focus on U.S. manufacturers in the future, he said.

The tightening of visas rules will primarily impact industries that rely on labor from other parts of the world, Gueorguiev said. Foreign labor is an important part of the U.S.’s economy and it will be harder to attract talented laborers, he added.

“A lot of U.S. economic strength in history has come from its ability to absorb the brainpower and talent from around the world,” Gueorguiev said.


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