Unfortunately, and for a number of reasons, the U.S. immigration system is in crisis in 2020. If you seek to enter the U.S., to obtain a green card, or to sponsor an employee or a loved one, you are going to need help – more than ever before – from a Boston immigration attorney.

Our economy has always relied on the contributions of hard-working immigrants and the many immigrants who are entrepreneurs, but as a result of the policy changes imposed by the Trump Administration – as well as COVID-19-related restrictions – immigration numbers are dropping.

The decline began even before the emergence of COVID-19. From 2017 to 2019, the immigrant share of the U.S. population failed to increase at all for the first time in decades. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Mexican immigrants dropped by over 600,000 from 2016 to 2019.

Why is the U.S. Admitting Fewer Immigrants?

According to Forbes, the number of immigrants entering the U.S. from China, India, and South Korea has also dipped sharply, and in February of this year (2020), the New York Times reported that legal immigration has fallen more than eleven percent under the Trump Administration.

Why is the United States admitting fewer immigrants from these countries? One reason is that the United States has permitted fewer U.S. citizens to sponsor a spouse, a child, or a parent for immigration.

The declining number of spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens entering the U.S. may reflect processing delays and policy changes that may also be preventing many immigrants from obtaining their green cards, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.

Do We Need More Workers in the U.S.?

International workers are critical to the U.S. labor pool, so a long-term reduction in the number of immigrants entering the United States may slow or stall a U.S. economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even the previous acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, admitted earlier this year, “We are desperate, desperate for more people. We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth.”

In October, in spite of the “desperate” need for more workers, the Trump Administration announced significant changes to the H-1B visa program for highly-skilled workers, raising the wages that companies must pay skilled foreign workers and narrowing the eligibility criteria.

H-1B Changes May Reduce the Number of H-1B Applications

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, the acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, told the New York Times that he expected the changes to cut by one-third the number of requests submitted annually for the sought-after H-1B visas.

The largest number of H-1B visa holders work in the tech sector as software developers and computer engineers. H-1B visas are also granted to accountants, architects, medical doctors, and a number of other professionals.

The H-1B changes follow a proclamation issued by the White House in June that suspended a number of worker visas for the remainder of 2020: H-1Bs, H-2B seasonal work visas, L-1 visas for executives being transferred by their employers, and cultural-exchange J-1 visas.

In October, however, Judge Jeffrey S. White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California temporarily blocked further implementation of that order, which applies to thousands of employers who seek to bring workers into the United States with an array of visas.

Judge White’s order conflicts with an earlier decision reached by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., so the ultimate determination will be made by a federal appeals court.

Why is Immigration so Important to the U.S. Economy?

Immigrants account for approximately half of the U.S. labor force expansion in this century, and economists are increasingly concerned that the current immigration slowdown may have negative, long-lasting, and profound economic ramifications.

“Immigration … has been a key part of workforce growth in the United States,” Robert S. Kaplan, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, told the New York Times. Immigrants “have been additive to the U.S. economy” and “they’ve helped us to grow faster.”

According to Brookings Institution demographer William H. Frey, 2019 was the lowest year in overall population growth in the United States since 1918. But for the United States to produce more goods and services, U.S.-based businesses will need more workers.

How Serious is the Decline in Immigration?

However, the ongoing reduction in immigration numbers will mean a 30 percent decrease in legal immigration by 2021 and a 35 percent dip in the average annual growth of the U.S. labor force, according to research conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy.

“The U.S. economy … will slow down, society will age, and the economic dynamism will slow,” according to economist Giovanni Peri at the University of California, Davis. “That’s the direction that the U.S. is going to be headed toward if … immigration is still constrained.”

Recent new executive orders and federal court rulings have been issued at a rapid pace. COVID-19 has caused additional complications. If you’re confused by the chaos, you’re not alone.

Immigration law in the United States has always been complicated, and immigration policies and practices always generate controversy. But two facts never change. Employers must have more employees, and many people in other nations desire strongly to work in the United States.

When Should You Contact an Immigration Attorney?

For now, U.S. employers who rely on immigrants may have to change their hiring plans. If you’re an employer trying to bring workers into the U.S., a Boston immigration lawyer can clarify how the court rulings and executive orders impact you – and might be able to help.

If you’re a United States citizen who is trying to bring a family member to the U.S., or if you’re dealing with another immigration concern, the right Massachusetts immigration attorney can offer the insights, advice, and services that you may need in the weeks and months ahead.

Many immigrants in the U.S. work and struggle for years to build lives for themselves and their families. If you are an immigrant in the U.S., do not let a misunderstanding or a technicality destroy your achievement. Let a lawyer help you with any immigration-related legal concerns.

Legal complications and changing rules are always part of the immigration process, but especially now, immigrants, families, non-immigrant visa holders, and employers should not delay seeking services and legal advice from the right Boston immigration attorney.

Toland Law, LLC