Will Trump reverse Obama's H-4 program?
By Scott Sumner
We dodged one bullet. The Trump administration’s proposal for a dramatic increase in regulation of the energy industry, support by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, has been rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Now there is danger of another bad regulation being enacted. But first a bit of background:
She came to the country legally with a spousal visa, or H-4, granted to the wives and husbands of those who have H-1B, or high-tech, visas. But H-4 visas didn’t allow a person to work in the U.S. — until 2015, when the Obama administration enacted a rule that opened the way for people with spousal visas to obtain permits known as employment authorization documents (EAD). . . .
Since it took effect, about 104,750 H-4 spouses have been approved for work authorizations, according to the latest data through June 2017 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
But now this program is in danger:
The relief of H-4 visa holders hasn’t lasted long, however. Bishen and spouses who received the work authorizations are now in limbo since the Trump administration indicated it plans to end the program this year. If that happens before they can get new work permits, spouses of H-1B holders in the Seattle area will have to decide whether to stop working in the United States or leave the country.
Ending this program would create a negative supply shock, reducing GDP growth. Let’s hope the proposal suffers the same fate as the ill-fated attempt to re-regulate energy.
Interestingly, this data from the Seattle Times suggests that the H-4 immigration program played a small role in the acceleration in economic growth during 2017:
Yes, that’s a very small fraction of the total labor force, but positive policy changes can make a difference in many individual people’s lives.
PS. We also need to keep an eye on trade policy, where a proposed steel tariff is like a dagger aimed at the heart of American manufacturing. Imagine the plight of US automakers if steel prices here rise far above Canadian and Mexican levels. And then there is foreign investment, where new regulations are making it increasing difficult for foreign firms to invest in the US. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole.