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Trump’s ban on immigrant workers moves Texas in the wrong direction, business leaders say

EL PASO — As the president of the Texas Business Leadership Council, Justin Yancy understands President Donald Trump’s desire to get more Americans back in the workforce, especially in well-paying jobs.

So does Ryan Skrobarczyk, the director of legislative and regulatory affairs for the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association. That’s why his organization’s members must first prove they can’t find American workers before turning to an immigrant workforce.

But they’re both struggling to make sense of the president’s latest executive action on immigration, which they say will likely stymie the economy at a time when Texas needs to see it grow.

“They [immigrants] come in and do jobs that Americans are doing as well, but with the kind of growth we need to restart the economy, we need them here [too],” Yancy said.

On Monday, Trump signed an executive order that freezes the issuance of several visas designated for foreign workers until the end of the year — including H1B visas for high-skilled laborers and H2B visas for seasonal, nonagricultural jobs, among several others. The restriction applies to visa applicants outside of the United States as of Monday, as well as those who didn’t have a valid visa as of that date, according to the proclamation.

“Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy,” the president’s proclamation states. “But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”

There are at least 9,000 H2B visa holders in Texas, Skrobarczyk said, and most are employed in the landscaping business.

Yancy argues that the directive could actually move the economy further in the wrong direction. That’s due, in part, to the support jobs that H1B visa holders help create, he said.

“Engineers, for example, for every job they have, you create, at least statistically, two more jobs,” he said.

Yancy added that with the annual limit on H1B visas, which stands at 85,000, there are more Americans in high-skilled jobs than foreigners.

“Companies that have been able to weather the shutdown and that are trying to grow need to find skilled staff,” he said. “And when they can’t find it in the U.S., they need to have this extra tool to be able to fill those roles.”

But conservative groups supportive of the president’s restrictionist policies said the move is just one step toward fixing a visa system that has been fundamentally flawed for years.

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