As Coronavirus rages across the U.S. and dominates headlines, the Trump administration is curtailing immigration everywhere it can.
First, they came for asylum seekers, overseas green card processing, and almost all temporary work visas. Seemly not satisfied with that, they are now going after international students. Any international students who are taking classes online because of COVID-19-related social distancing measures must either change to a school that is offering in-person classes or leave the country.
The decision to cease the processing of H-1Bs and other high-skilled work permits until the end of the year was framed as a way to protect American jobs. But if it was really about protecting American jobs, why has the business community reacted so swiftly and negatively? Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon all released statements saying that the order would hurt them and the American economy as a whole.
And what about the changes to international student status? Where is the concern for American teaching and academic support jobs that will be lost because students are being forced to choose between their health and their American immigration opportunities?
The answer is simple—the Trump administration’s changes to the U.S. immigration system are not about protecting America. The work permit freeze is pure political pandering to the president’s anti-immigration base. The lack of accommodation for students looking to protect their health while studying in America can only be described as cruelty—something this administration is no stranger to. The intense politicization of immigration in America leaves newcomers, who are eager to contribute, hanging in the balance.
As America’s gridlock on immigration reform continues with no end in sight, Canada is well placed to reap the rewards of the political chaos.
More Indian students are choosing Canada every year while the U.S. sees declining enrolment. Canadian businesses are also capitalizing on the dysfunction. As a response to the high-skilled American work permit freeze, the CEO of Shopify, based in Ottawa, has released a campaign to recruit engineers from the states whose status is in jeopardy.
Even American companies are looking to their Canadian offices for better options to recruit overseas skilled workers. According to Pearl Law’s April survey of global mobility, managers across key industries found that 83% of managers are now more likely to place their foreign talent in other countries such as Canada; and 68% that already have operations in Canada and have sent people there before, now expect to send more.
America’s loss is Canada’s gain—but at what cost?
The benefits to Canada’s economic recovery gained from the political dysfunction in America is hard to be cheerful about it when you know what it cost. Taking pleasure in these rewards has an air of schadenfreude that I cannot indulge in. How we got here is a direct result of unnecessary cruelty and the dismantling of immigrant’s aspirations for the American dream.
My message to those newcomers looking to Canada as their new choice, welcome. I’m sorry it couldn’t have been under better circumstances but you are welcome here nonetheless.