America is Desperate For Labor Yet is Taking in Fewer Legal Immigrants Each Year

The nation is so frantic for truckers that 20% of long-haul drivers are boosting productivity with amphetamines. Minnesota-based Cargill Inc., America’s largest producer of ground beef, has 1,400 job openings on any given week. And in Maine, the state’s Medicaid program is short on in-home caregivers, and adult children are paying exorbitant, out-of-pocket sums for private-care substitutes.

“We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth,” former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told a private gathering in England last month, adding that America “is desperate” for legal immigrants.

Mulvaney is on his way out the door, but he couldn’t be more right. And his remarks couldn’t be more in contrast with Trump administration policies that are cutting legal immigration in addition to cracking down on illegal immigration.

Job openings outnumber unemployed
“Our country is full,” President Donald Trump has said several times.

That’s hardly the case. There are more job openings (6.4 million) than there are people looking for work (5.8 million), according to the latest Labor Department figures. Friday’s federal jobs report showed employment rising by 273,000 in February and the jobless rate little changed at 3.5%, a 50-year low.

To be sure, the new coronavirus outbreak appears likely to trigger significant economic disruption in the months ahead, a concern reflected in Monday’s 2,000-point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. But longer term, America faces labor shortages and declining fertility rates. Healthy rates of legal immigration can add dynamism to the nation’s economy.

That isn’t happening. The United States only took in 595,000 immigrants last year, the fewest in decades. The nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy projects that the trend will continue at the rate of 30% fewer immigrants each year.

The reason is not anything Congress has done. It’s the result of Trump administration policies executed under the rubric of fighting terrorism or sifting for only the finest immigrants.

The number of refugees allowed into the country has fallen under the Trump administration to historic lows. More countries have been added to Trump’s travel ban list, choking off a stream of Burmese and Somali immigrants willing to work the dangerous conditions in meat processing, or Nigerian nurses the health industry needs to staff chronic vacancies.

By Wilfredo Lee for
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