Bro­ken prom­ises

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - OPINION -

On pa­per, the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion hasn’t changed dra­mat­i­cally. The gov­ern­ment started ac­cept­ing H-1B ap­pli­ca­tions for fis­cal year 2019 on Mon­day. Mean­while, de­spite Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion in Septem­ber to end the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, court or­ders have pro­tected the nearly 800,000 “Dream­ers” from mass de­por­ta­tions.

Still, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hard-line an­ti­im­mi­gra­tion stance is tak­ing its toll.

Ap­pli­cants for the H-1B visa pro­gram are an­tic­i­pat­ing the hard­est process in many years. That’s af­fected both the ap­pli­cants and the com­pa­nies that em­ploy them.

In­dian con­sult­ing firms, which have been ac­cused of flood­ing the sys­tem with ap­pli­ca­tions, have dra­mat­i­cally re­duced their fil­ings. For­eign na­tion­als are ex­hibit­ing new re­luc­tance to make the jump to a U.S. com­pany.

En­voy Global, a tech­nol­ogy-ori­ented im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices provider, re­ports that 26 per­cent of em­ploy­ers it sur­veyed have had to de­lay projects, and 22 per­cent of them have re­lo­cated work over­seas as a re­sult of the cur­rent un­cer­tain­ties in the U.S. im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

These same em­ploy­ers don’t seem to be in­ter­ested in fill­ing their work­place gaps with U.S.-born work­ers, either — 53 per­cent said they ex­pected to some­how in­crease their for­eign­born head count.

Study af­ter study has shown that for­eign-born work­ers are good for the U.S. economy and good for U.S.-born work­ers. When com­pa­nies are al­lowed to hire the work­ers with the best skills for the job — re­gard­less of where those work­ers hap­pen to have been born — their in­creased com­pet­i­tive­ness boosts all the in­dus­tries around them.

Sim­i­larly, it’s hard to find a sin­gle eco­nomic ex­pert who would rec­om­mend de­port­ing the Dream­ers.

The idea of de­port­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of young im­mi­grants who were brought to the U.S. as chil­dren — young peo­ple who speak English, went to U.S. schools and are cur­rently en­ter­ing their prime work­ing years — isn’t just morally bank­rupt, it’s eco­nom­i­cally non­sen­si­cal. A ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans con­tinue to op­pose end­ing the pro­gram, and to blame the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for do­ing so.

Yet Congress still re­fuses to pass a bill to pro­tect the young im­mi­grants. Trump still of­fers lit­tle lead­er­ship and much mis­in­for­ma­tion about the pro­gram, re­cently tweet­ing, falsely, that “big flows of peo­ple” were try­ing to take ad­van­tage of it.

The U.S. has had a bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem for decades. By the sounds of what we’re hear­ing from Wash­ing­ton, we’re a long way from re­pair.

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