President Donald Trump met with U.S. tech workers on Monday before signing an executive order adding increased scrutiny to federal government contracts hiring foreign workers. The move is Trump’s latest effort to prioritize hiring Americans amid the country’s growing economic crisis.
Watch Trump’s remarks in the video player above.
“When employers trade American jobs for temporary foreign labor, for example, it reduces opportunities for United States workers in a manner inconsistent with the role guest-worker programs are meant to play in the Nation’s economy,” the order read.
Among other things, the executive order requires each agency to review contracts from fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to determine whether opportunities for U.S. workers were affected by the hiring of foreign workers.
The measure also instructs the Labor Department and Homeland Security secretaries to protect U.S. workers from possible adverse effects on wages and working conditions that could result from hiring people on H-1B visas, meant for highly skilled workers.
A Bloomberg Law analysis of data from the Department of Labor indicated that the department approved more than 2,000 H-1B workers in the first nine months of fiscal year 2019 to place in various federal positions.
The coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown of businesses and workplaces led to widespread job losses and a peak unemployment rate of 14.7 percent in April — the highest since the Great Depression. The rate fell to 11.1 percent in June as many workplaces began to reopen. Since March, the president has made changes to immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processes seeking to create more job opportunities for Americans.
On April 22, Trump issued a 60-day order suspending the issuance of green cards for people currently outside the U.S. “In the administration of our Nation’s immigration system, we must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor,” the announcement read.
Two months later, the White House issued a new mandate extending the green card suspensions and barring people outside the U.S. from obtaining certain classes of nonimmigrant visas, including H-1B visas for workers in specialty jobs, H-4s for their spouses, H-2Bs for temporary non-agricultural workers, J-1s for exchange visitors and L-1 visas for intracompany transfers.
This is not the first time the Trump administration has proposed limitations on foreign workers. In 2017, Trump issued a “Buy American and Hire American” order that promised to rigorously regulate the entry of new foreign workers.
But some immigration experts argue that the Trump administration’s actions are not likely to make it easier to replace foreign workers with U.S. workers, particularly in those jobs that require specialty skills in information technology, electronics manufacturing and other STEM industries.
An analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center determined that industries with a prevalence of green card applications do not match up with those hardest hit by the pandemic. Though the country’s economic crisis saw job losses in a range of industries, leisure and hospitality as well as the mining, gas and oil industries experienced the most significant downturn.