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Noah Smith

Trump’s Immigration Lockdown Will Weaken America

By turning away the world’s best talent, U.S. industrial and tech leadership might lose out to China and other nations.

All smiles.

All smiles.


These are hard times for pro-immigration forces in the U.S. President Donald Trump has seized upon this moment of confusion and distraction to issue a 60-day ban on most green-card applications -- suggesting that the administration has been just as intent from the start on targeting legal immigration as well as the illegal variety. Trump’s leading anti-immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, has said that Trump will try to extend this ban indefinitely, shutting down most immigration by administrative fiat. And with tensions with China ratcheting up over coronavirus and other issues, immigration opponents such as Republican Senator Tom Cotton are proposing a ban on Chinese students studying science and technology at U.S. universities. 

Even if Trump’s new ban is struck down by the courts and former Vice President Joe Biden beats him in the fall election, the economic downturn caused by the pandemic probably will depress migration for years. The U.S. has been especially hard-hit by coronavirus, and will almost certainly suffer a painful and lasting depression. That will make it a less appealing destination for international talent, which could flow to less-hard-hit places such as Canada and Australia.