Trump’s Immigration Restrictions Bring an End to the American Century

MAGA doesn’t make America great, it betrays everything that made us great

“Make America Great Again” implies that America was no longer “great” but had been “great” at some point in the past. Therefore, it would follow, that making America great again would require restoring policies to how they once had been. That is why the MAGA position on immigration is nonsensical. The Trump administration has been hostile to immigration, yet, it was that steady flow of immigrants that quite literally built the wealthiest, most powerful, and most innovative country on Earth. In their efforts to curb immigration, MAGA lays the groundwork for end of American hegemony.

Legal Immigration Targeted

MAGA types will insist that their President only targets illegal immigration, but this is demonstrably false. Remember the multiple “travel bans” that arbitrarily targeted people immigrating from Muslim-majority countries? Those were legal immigrants. The Trump administration has sought to limit, or successful limited, the visa lottery program, gutted the refugee program, decimated asylum procedures and even has made it more difficult to obtain H-1B visas (professional work visas that often are pathway to a green card), making renewals more time consuming, more uncertain, and keeping hundreds of thousands of would-be Americans in a constant state of limbo.

Trump has further sought to undermine family based immigration, falsely misrepresenting it as “chain migration.” Trumps latest move against immigrants, which is falsely claimed to be an effort to preserve “jobs,” also attacks legal immigrants. All of these are legal pathways to immigrate to the United States, and all have been under constant assault by a President who claims to welcome legal immigration.

Why Immigration is So Important

Leaving aside the fact that the US is a nation built by immigrants (except from the native Americans who arrived here centuries ago…we are all immigrants or their descendants). Immigration has been one of the key ingredients that has kept the US economy growing while many other “would be” superpowers floundered. Japan was once the world’s second largest economy, nearly as large as the US, and outpaced the US in economic growth from the 1950s through the 1980s. Many predicted that Japan would overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in the 90s. Yet that never happened.

In fact, the opposite happened. Japan’s economy has not grown at all since its peak in 1990. Japanese companies, once dominant in their industries, are often outflanked by better and cheaper competitors in the USA, Korea, and China. Unlike the US, Japan’s restrictive immigration policies held it back. Japan’s age dependency ratio skyrocketed as too few workers entered the workforce relative to those who retired, driven by low birth rates and little inward immigration. With this rising age-dependency ratio, Japan’s economic productivity and its ability to innovate has waned.

Innovation and growth

It is not just a matter of demographics, however. In the US, a staggering 45% of Fortune 500 companies (Americas most valuable companies) were started by immigrants or their children. Together, these companies brought in $6.1 trillion of revenue in 2018 alone. Immigrants overall have founded 20% of all American businesses. Immigrants have and continue to create a massive amount of wealth for the US, but increasingly the US government’s position is to turn them away. This runs directly counter to any notion of making America great.

In STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), non-Americans account for an astonishing 54% of masters degrees and 44% of doctorate degrees issued by American universities. Many of these degree recipients choose to stay in the US after they graduate and work for American tech companies like Google, Microsoft, or Tesla. Increasingly, however, due to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, visa delays, higher visa fees, and the risks posed by a volatile and anti-immigrant administration, foreign students are choosing not to study in the US. After over a decade of rapid growth, the number of students coming to the US for education plunged by 9.6% in the school years immediately after Trump took office.

Those numbers are deeply troubling. Not only is the US finding it harder to attract foreign talent, its growing hostility is also making it harder to keep that talent. Engineers, scientists, and other professionals from China and India are increasingly returning back to their home countries, building companies and products that compete with American ones…to the detriment of American jobs, wealth, and power. This is a reversal of the “brain drain” that has sustained American hegemony since WW2.

Despite its MAGA rhetoric, the Trump administration is undermining the very thing that made America great. Their continued assault on immigrants and immigration will mark the end of the American century. It may already be too late to reverse the damage.

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