Immigration has been a hot topic in the 2016 presidential campaign, but the focus has been on what the candidates would (or wouldn’t) do about persons in the United States without authorization. The candidates’ views on business-related immigration issues have not received much attention. However, an analysis of their campaign websites and public pronouncements gives some indication of the business immigration policies each candidate might pursue if he or she becomes President.
Donald Trump’s signature immigration policy pledge is to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. He has also pledged to deport all 11 million persons who are in the U.S. without authorization, though more recently he has indicated that he might focus on people who have committed crimes. These proposals have received the most attention, but Trump has also addressed immigration policies that would affect employers. On his website and elsewhere, Trump has proposed the following:
- End President Obama’s executive actions granting temporary work authorization and protection from deportation to certain categories of undocumented young people and their parents (DAPA and DACA)
- Implement an entry and exit tracking system to make sure foreign visitors do not overstay their visas
- Require all employers to use the electronic E-Verify employment verification system
- Require H-1B employers to pay H-1B workers a higher prevailing wage
- Require employers to recruit for U.S. workers before they can sponsor a foreign worker for an H-1B visa
- Implement a pause in the issuance of employment-based green cards and require employers to hire from the pool of unemployed U.S. workers
- Suspend immigration from Muslim countries, which would block the issuance of work visas to persons from those countries
Hillary Clinton has not discussed business immigration issues much in her campaign. Many analysts believe she is generally a supporter of legal business immigration, but for political reasons she has not emphasized the specific issues in her campaign. She was a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform during her years as a senator. Clinton has made the following proposals and commitments:
- Introduce comprehensive immigration reform legislation within her first 100 days as President. She has not provided detail about what the package would include, but if it is similar to the comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013, it might include a legalization plan and path to citizenship for persons in the U.S. without authorization, enhanced border security, mandatory E-Verify for all employers, new visa categories for lesser-skilled and agricultural workers, an increase in the number of H-1B visas for professional workers, and an increase in the number of employment-based green cards, including creation of a new category based on merit.
- Grant green cards automatically to advanced degree STEM graduates from U.S. universities
- Create a “startup visa” for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a new business in the U.S.
- Continue and potentially expand President Obama’s executive actions granting temporary work authorization and protection from deportation for persons in the U.S. without authorization
Regardless of what the candidates propose, any changes to business immigration laws will depend on what happens in Congress. There will likely be a renewed push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2017, at least in the Senate. But based on Congress’ lack of consensus on immigration (or much else) in recent years, it’s possible that not much will change, regardless of whether President Trump or President Clinton is inaugurated on January 20, 2017.