The food, construction, and healthcare sectors are concerned about fallout from the crackdown on immigration called for in Secretary John Kelly’s Implementation Memos, President Donald Trump’s travel ban, and possible new legislation aimed at reducing overall immigration by 50% within 10 years.
Those sectors suffer from labor shortages already and have relied on immigrants to fill jobs that U.S. workers reject. Some of these workers are authorized, but others are undocumented. According to a Pew study, in 2014, undocumented workers accounted for 17% of the workforce in agriculture, 13% in construction, and 9% in leisure and hospitality. In California, 45% of agricultural workers are undocumented.
Restaurants nationwide employ more than two million foreign-born workers and have difficulty finding line cooks, sous chefs, and servers. Restauranteurs expect the new deportation priorities will decimate the ranks of essential, lower-skilled workers as well. But that is just the beginning of the problem for restaurants. Deportations and arrests on farms would result in labor shortages and higher prices that ultimately hit customers.
The healthcare industry also has cause for concern. More than 10,000 physicians in the U.S. are from the seven countries listed in Trump’s travel ban — many of these physicians work in underserved, rural areas in order to remain in the U.S. In fact, one in five U.S. physicians is foreign born. At this time of year, medical school graduates are interviewing and being selected for competitive residency programs that are indispensable in providing care in the foremost teaching hospitals in the U.S. If hospitals choose foreign-born graduates, they cannot be sure that visas will be available. Dr. Michael F. Collins, Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said: “It seems a shame to me that students who have completed their studies and done their work and are attractive applicants would not be [selected] because of an uncertainty cast by the executive order . . . . And it would seem a shame to me that the next Nobel Prize winner wouldn’t be offered a spot because of this order.” The anticipated revised travel ban order may help to cure this.
Trump has promised to promote economic growth that depends, in part, upon boosting the number of workers who are working productively. Pew studies show that with a reduction in immigration, the working population in the U.S. would decrease due to aging and lowering birth rates. More recently, he said that he might shift his immigration strategy to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. If realized, this may be an opportunity for him to live up to his promise of promoting economic growth by increasing the number of workers in the U.S.