Trump’s Ban on Immigration Will Help the Labor Force, But Not in the Way You Think

Posted in: HeadlinesOp-ed
April 21, 2020 1:51 PM UTC

Donald Trump claims he'll ban immigration to reduce unemployment, but that's not actually what happens when immigration is reduced.

  • Donald Trump’s planned immigration ban isn’t what his supporters think it is.
  • Reducing immigration doesn’t affect job seekers’ ability to find employment.
  • It could exacerbate unemployment by increasing labor costs and hurting companies that are already struggling.

This week, in typical Donald Trump fashion, the president tweeted that he was planning to “ban immigration” to help get the U.S. back on track. His tweet was revered by some and slated by others, but without the details of this supposed ban, it’s impossible to understand whether it can help.

And yes, it can help–but maybe not in the way Trump and his supporters are insinuating.

Donald Trump is planning to “ban immigration,” there’s no evidence it will help reduce unemployment. | Source: Twitter

Two types of Trump supporters are cheering the president’s immigration Tweet. The first are those who believe that immigrants have caused the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. They think that by keeping immigrants out, Trump is protecting them from further risk of infection.

Claims that reducing immigration will stop the spread of coronavirus are entirely unfounded. | Source: Twitter

That’s not only ridiculous, but it’s categorically false. It appears that migrants trying to enter the U.S. from South America are getting infected with coronavirus while being detained. Then, they are sent back to their home countries, where healthcare is limited, bringing coronavirus with them.

The second group of Trump supporters promoting his immigration ban are marginally more intelligent. They point to sky-high unemployment figures as a good reason to cut off immigration. After all, there are millions of Americans looking for work and adding more job seekers to the mix will make finding one much harder.

While it sounds plausible that immigration hurts job seekers, that’s not true. | Source: Twitter

That rationale sounds simple, but research shows it’s actually not true. A high number of immigrants doesn’t make it harder for unemployed Americans to find a job.

A study by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College showed that the number of immigrants in the labor force didn’t hurt Americans’ chances of getting a job:

Our evidence suggests that immigration has no effect on the availability of jobs for unemployed citizens

Reduced Immigration Does Benefit Low-Skilled Workers

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that having an influx of immigrants is good for American workers.

Under normal circumstances, an immigrant influx is bad for unskilled workers with a high school diploma or less. That’s because a large portion of immigrants are also unskilled and are willing to work for less money. That brings wages down and disproportionately hurts low-skilled U.S. workers—not because they can’t get a job, but because they’re paid less.

For example, census data show that someone without a high school diploma has seen their yearly income fall by between $800 and $1,500 each year. That’s because the number of unskilled immigrants with comparable education entering the U.S. over the past few decades has increased the workforce among that population by about 25%.

Higher Wages Won’t Help Unemployment

Unfortunately for those cheering on Trump’s ban, this is not a normal circumstance. While it’s true that fewer immigrants mean higher wages for unskilled workers, it also means companies can’t afford to hire a ton of people back.

Reducing immigration could make it harder for Americans to find jobs. | Source: Twitter

The coronavirus has decimated U.S. businesses and will likely send many of them into bankruptcy. By cutting down on immigration, we’re talking about boosting the cost of labor as well. That will further strain U.S. firms’ finances and make them even more selective about hiring.

The bottom line? A ‘ban on immigration’ isn’t the answer to unemployment. It doesn’t guarantee more jobs for Americans—in fact, it could even do the opposite as companies struggle with higher labor costs. That’s not to say that tighter immigration policies wouldn’t help Americans down the line, but it’s not going to shorten the unemployment line as Trump supporters think it will.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.

This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.

Last modified: April 21, 2020 6:45 PM UTC

Laura Hoy @Laura_h_says

Laura has been working as financial journalist covering US markets for more than a decade. Her work can be found in a wide variety of publications including Yahoo Finance, InvestorPlace, Nasdaq and Benzinga. She can be reached at LMarieHoy @ gmail.com

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