Understanding the President’s “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order

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On April 18, President Trump signed his “Presidential Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American”.  The order charges various agencies in the federal government to examine and assess potential changes – regulatory and legislative – to policies governing federal procurement programs and the H1B non-immigrant visa programThe order itself doesn’t specify what these changes would entail, and most if not all of these changes would need to go through lengthy processes before they would become law or regulation.  

The order amounts to a messaging memo that mischaracterizes the H1B visa program in order to advance the President’s ‘America First’ agenda.  While many experts would agree that there are reforms that can strengthen the H1b visa program to protect against abuses by certain kinds of corporations, research also demonstrates that the H1b Visa program is a boost to the American economy and workers.  For example, an increase in H-1B visas could create an estimated 1.3 million new jobs and add around $158 billion to Gross Domestic Product in the United States by 2045. Conversely, research shows that the United States has missed out on the opportunity to create new jobs by limiting the number of H-1B visas to 65,000 per year. For example, estimates show that, had the U.S. government not rejected 178,000 H-1B visa petitions in computer related fields in the 2007 and 2008 visa lotteries, U.S. metropolitan areas could have created as many as 231,224 tech jobs for U.S.-born workers in the two years that followed.

Most concerning, the President’s order failed to address the impact of his own rhetoric on growing anti-immigrant resentment in the United States.  The President’s remarks were notable for being tone deaf to the concerns of foreign-born and US citizen workers still processing the murder of an Indian immigrant in Olathe, KS.  As reported in the news, the perpetrator told the victims to ‘get out of my country’ prior to shooting them and a third individual that attempted to intervene in the deadly assault, currently being investigated as a hate crime.

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