Immigration Policy: Trump and Biden Take Sides

President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden have largely different immigration views and policies. The main reason for this difference is that each presidential candidate in the 2020 election has different opinions over immigrants’ influence in the U.S. 

President Trump’s views on immigration perceive immigrants as a threat to native U.S. citizens and the American workforce, while Joe Biden’s views are more favorable toward immigrants as contributors to the economy.

What Are Trump’s Immigration Policies?

Throughout the last four years during his first term as president, President Trump’s administration developed multiple policies aimed to limit the ability of immigrants to enter the U.S. The regulations put in place around immigration is contradictory to Trump’s tendency to deregulate in many other areas.

The main goal of Trump’s immigration policies is to reduce competition in the labor market and increase wages for native workers. Trump has also made comments claiming that Hispanic and African American unemployment is largely due to a lack of highly skilled immigrants.

Ending Family Immigration and the Lottery System

Historically, immigration worked using family migration, in which immigrants in the U.S. would sponsor family members for citizenship. Subsequently, those family members would sponsor other family members. At the same time, the visa lottery system uses a random selection system for choosing immigrants who are eligible to obtain citizenship. 

In an attempt to enforce Trump’s policies, the Trump administration has worked to stop the visa lottery system and cease famiily migration. In their place, Trump hopes to implement a merit-based immigration system, which would primarily seek high-skilled immigrants and prevent families from sponsoring other immigrant family members.

Ending DACA and Increasing Border Security

The Trump administration also aimed to put an end to The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which would be detrimental to over 644,000 young immigrants in the U.S. These young adults, also known as “Dreamers,” contribute a lot to the American economy, increasing gross domestic product (GDP) by $42 billion every year.

In addition to ending DACA, another early goal for the Trump administration was to construct a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to further prevent illegal immigration. While the Trump administration hoped that Mexico would foot the bill for the wall, insufficient funds were generated. In response, Trump declared a national emergency in 2019, which enabled him to redirect military construction (MilCon) expenses toward funding for the wall. The completed wall would stretch for 450 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border. So far, 235 miles have been built.

What Are Biden’s Immigration Policies?

Unlike Trump, Joe Biden aims to place fewer restrictions for immigrants who wish to gain entry into the U.S. Joe Biden’s policies largely reflect former president Barack Obama’s and will work to cease Trump’s policies. Biden favors increased regulations in most other areas, but immigration is one area that is an exception in Biden’s agenda.

Biden’s goal is to make immigration policies less strict and ensure that any documented or undocumented immigrant has a chance to obtain citizenship with help from the government. Biden’s policies are intended to help give immigrants an equal opportunity to become citizens. At the same time, Biden’s policy works to develop a healthy, diverse workforce and encourage growth in the economy.

Studies Determining Which Policy Is Best

Recent research has concluded that the Trump administration’s policy for immigration could do more harm than good for the American workforce and economy. For example, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research determined that immigration can increase total factor productivity through labor specialization. As a result, higher productivity levels lead to higher wages for American workers. 

Generally, immigration in the U.S. has led to a more diverse and fruitful labor market, which is good for the economy. Another study conducted by the American Action Forum determined that Trump’s immigration policy of excluding undocumented immigrants would be harmful to the economy overall. The study concluded that with the Trump administration’s policy implemented, the GDP would fall by as much as $620 billion, with a minimum shortage of 4 million workers.

On the other hand, there are certain advantages that come with Trump’s proposed merit-based system. When it comes to IT, another National Bureau of Economic Research study found that high-skilled immigrant computer science workers on H-1B visas helped create more IT companies in the U.S. At the same time, the wages for computer science workers increased while the prices of IT goods decreased. However, low-skilled immigrants have also been shown to contribute positively to the American workforce and the economy.

Of the two candidates’ policies, Biden’s are ultimately more likely to be beneficial for the economy if implemented, research shows. American Action Forum determined that foreign immigrants don’t impede native workers’ ability to thrive. Immigrants contribute to more growth and opportunities in the workforce, improving overall economic health.