Policy Shift: The New Administration?s Immigration Policy and Impacts on Business

Immigration has been a contentious issue for decades, and many administrations have struggled to find a balanced policy for allowing new people into the country. This year, the Trump Administration has brought with it some stark policy changes to include immigration. While this can be a controversial topic, it’s important to know how new policy will affect you and/or your business. Immigration change has been a key policy component for President Trump throughout his campaign and into his Administration, and it will likely come with some economic consequences. The new Administration is starting to push through legislation to help tackle some of their goals. Key campaign promises from 2016 that are currently in the works include building a wall along the US-Mexico border, removing criminal undocumented immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities that shelter illegal immigrants, limiting legal immigration, and tripling the number of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Additionally, in January 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769 which halted all refugee admissions and temporarily barred people from seven Muslim-majority countries. This Executive Order faced significant legal challenges in its first few weeks, and was deemed unconstitutional after being taken to court by opposing parties. A second draft of the Order was then issued on March 6, 2017, excluding Iraq from the travel ban and including a case-by-case waiver process for refugees from the countries impacted. The Order continues to face legal pushback. President Trump has seen progress in other areas of his immigration policy. The Administration has largely increased the presence of ICE agents and the number of illegal immigrants being deported. Under President Obama, ICE agents were required to focus on only the most serious criminals. Under President Trump, all illegal immigrants are being made a priority, regardless of criminal background. The changes being made at the federal level have a significant impact on the United States’ demographics and economy. With the potential for thousands of people leaving the country through deportation and the decreased access for future immigrants, the shape and makeup of America’s workforce is likely to change, specifically in manufacturing — the National Bureau of Economic Research reports that about 890,000 undocumented immigrants work in manufacturing and are also responsible for nearly $74 billion in annual manufacturing output. In certain sectors, immigrants make up the majority of workers. In agriculture, for instance, foreign-born people are a significant source of labor. According to the USDA, 71 percent of crop workers are foreign -born, and 4 percent are not legally authorized to work in the United States. These numbers may be even higher, as many undocumented workers may be unwilling to reveal their illegal status. According to a study done by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the reason these numbers are so high is that American workers are unwilling to take these jobs — even in times of economic hardship. The report states, “In 2011, there were on average 489,000 unemployed people in North Carolina and approximately 6,500 available farm jobs offered through the North Carolina Growers Association. Despite the fact that each of these jobs was in or next to a county with over 10 percent unemployment, only 268 of the nearly 500,000 unemployed North Carolinians applied for these jobs. More than 90 percent of those applying (245 people) were hired, but just 163 showed up for the first day of work.” In cases such as these, employers have little choice but to give jobs to immigrant workers. It is expected that the Trump Administration’s current policy of substantial removal of undocumented immigrants will have a substantial impact on this sector. Agricultural labor shortages would result in higher prices for food, and America would then be forced to import much of its food supply from other countries. There would also be the possibility of food shortages. Ultimately, the new Administration’s policies will certainly influence the economy as a whole. A decreased immigrant population will result in a loss of labor for many industry sectors. This will, in turn, affect profits for companies in those sectors, as businesses may not be able to yield as much product. American-made products may then become more expensive, especially if there are shortages in any sector due to the labor losses. Americans will start to look elsewhere for cheaper products, increasing the number of products imported from other countries. It is still unclear exactly how these policy changes might affect the printing industry, or even if many of these policies are going to be put in place — but being aware of current and potential future policy can help businesses prepare for any changes that may occur. By looking at other industries as an example, such as agriculture, we can get a sense for what this might mean for printers. US manufacturers may face labor losses which could increase costs of supplies for printers, and they may also see a struggle to find laborers to work in their facilities. In the wake of these potential changes, companies should look at their current hiring practices to determine how they might be affected. All employers who hire individuals for employment in the US are required by federal law to complete Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification). This helps ensure that potential hires are eligible to work in the United States. Businesses can also use E-verify in their hiring process, which is a free online system that helps determine the eligibility of employees. As of right now, E-verify is not federally mandated, but a few states (Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah) have specific laws that require employers to use E-verify. Other states may choose to adopt in the future, and over the past several years, bills have been introduced that would make E-verify a federal requirement. While the impacts of new immigration legislation will likely be felt industry-wide, you can prepare and protect your business by being aware of the changes that are happening and encouraging legal hiring practices. SGIA will continue to monitor the impact of these policy changes. Sign up at SGIA.org/FirsttoKnow to receive the most up-to-date regulatory and legislative information about specialty imaging.
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