Will the Trump Administration’s Efforts to Scale Back Immigration through Administrative Means Harm Future Economic Growth?

As aging native-born workers leave the labor force, the growth of the U.S. workforce and economy has increasingly depended on immigrant workers. More than 50 percent of U.S. workforce growth over the past 20 years has come from immigrants and their children. This report from NFAP estimates that by 2021 Trump administration changes in long-standing U.S. immigration policy will result in at least a 30 percent annual reduction (350,000) in legal immigration to the U.S, resulting in a 35 percent reduction in the annual growth of the labor market and long-term damage to the U.S. economy. The primary sources of this decline are not changes in law by Congress but executive branch decisions that include a reduction in refugee admissions, the travel ban, and the impact of the revised public charge rule on immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

NFAP projects that implementing the public charge rule and the travel ban will result in a 47 percent reduction in the number of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who qualify for lawful permanent residence. Analysts also see a potential significant impact from the complicated nature of new rules and documentation requirements, which will slow the issuance of new visas and lead to increased rejection rates. In addition, a recent presidential proclamation requiring would-be immigrants to have health insurance, though halted by a federal district court, would if implemented have an impact similar to or even greater than the public charge rule. Depending on implementation of the public charge rule and other restrictions, the reduction in legal immigration could be significantly greater than 30 percent; the study also models the impact of a more severe annual reduction of immigration by 40 percent and 50 percent. Labor force growth according to economists is a key element of economic growth, along with increased labor force participation and productivity. Without immigrants contributing to the quantity and quality of the labor supply, one study argues, the majority of the country’s economic gains from 2011 and 2016 following the recession would have been eliminated.

The significant decline in the annual level of legal immigration, NFAP’s report concludes, means that lower long-term economic growth may be President Trump’s most lasting legacy. (Jeffrey Gross, Ph.D.)

The Impact of Administrative Policies on Immigration Levels and Labor Force Growth
National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), February 2020

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