Biden Rescinds COVID-19 Immigrant Visa Pause
FAIR Take | February 2021
On February 24, President Joe Biden rescinded an April 2020 executive order that temporarily suspended the distribution of employment-based green cards. Former President Donald Trump signed the April 2020 order as a reaction to the collapse of the American workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent shutdowns, which threw the economy into a tailspin.
Biden’s order takes direct aim at President Trump’s response to the COVID-19 economic crisis. In the order, Biden writes:
[The April 2020 order] does not advance the interests of the United States. To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.
Trump’s order cited the effects of the COVID-19 economic crisis on the domestic labor market. The unemployment rate in April 2020 stood at 14.8 percent, whereas a year before it stood at just 3.7 percent. Citing labor market conditions, President Trump’s order read:
I have determined that, without intervention, the United States faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand. Excess labor supply affects all workers and potential workers, but it is particularly harmful to workers at the margin between employment and unemployment, who are typically "last in" during an economic expansion and "first out" during an economic contraction.
Incredibly, no part of President Biden’s new order addresses current economic conditions. It merely claims that Trump’s order “does not advance the interests of the United States,” without explaining further what this means. January 2021’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent compared to 3.5 percent in January 2020. Notably, the unemployment rate for the bottom quartile of Americans is 23 percent. Simply put, President Biden issued no concrete reason for rescinding this order in the middle of an ongoing economic crisis beset by COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
After President Trump signed the executive order in April 2020, FAIR expressed disappointment over the fact that the order did not go far enough to protect the job opportunities of American workers by not pausing admissions for guestworkers, particularly in the H-1B and H-2B categories. President Trump later signed a second executive order barring these categories.
Rescinding the April 2020 order may be shortsighted, but hopefully this decision does not foreshadow the Biden administration rescinding the guestworker pause. While this decision may be hasty, rescinding the guestworker pause would be a catastrophic mistake by the Biden administration and would be a slap in the face to American workers struggling to find meaningful employment as our economy recovers from the economic shutdowns associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.