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The Effects of Slowed Immigration under COVID-19

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The Effects of Slowed Immigration under COVID-19

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, unlawful presidential policies (both previous and current), and unprecedented processing delays, the amount of new immigrants entering the United States has dropped precipitously. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, net international migration added 247,000 immigrants to the U.S. population between 2020 and 2021. This is just over half the amount of immigrants the U.S. welcomed between 2019 and 2020 (477,000) and less than a quarter of the amount between 2015 and 2016 (1,049,000).

However, these numbers only reflect those who have entered in immigrant (or non-temporary) status. When accounting for non-immigrant petitions, the American Immigration Council estimates that over 1 million workers are missing from the U.S. workforce.

Meanwhile, the “Great Resignation” and a more competitive job marketplace has resulted in 10.4 million job openings in the U.S. These positions include much needed health care workers, truck drivers, and warehouse workers. But with unemployment back down to 3.9%, there are more job offerings than there are people to fill them.

As the positions remain unfilled, the effects extend beyond individual employers and businesses. Beyond the obvious detrimental effects of absent healthcare workers, worker shortages in the shipping industry lead to supply-chain issues, which in turn contribute to inflation. With fewer available goods shipped throughout the country, demand and prices increase as well.

While these issues may subside once we finally get a grasp on how to live with COVID-19, it does provide a glimpse into a potential future for the U.S. In 2021, the U.S. population grew only by .1%, which was the slowest growth rate since the founding of the country. This is not an outlier caused by the pandemic, but a continued trend since the 1990’s.  Birth rates in the U.S. are dropping and fewer adults expect to have children. Japan, a country which has been reluctant to embrace immigration, faces a potential crisis due to their dwindling growth rate and aging population. As a result, Japan has begun to revise some immigration policies to allow non-native workers to stay in the country indefinitely.

In the end, immigration is not just an opportunity for people not born in the U.S. to better their own lives, but it serves as a necessary mechanism to keep the U.S. up and running. Xenophobic attempts to severely limit immigration, if not reined in, could ultimately lead to the nation’s downfall. Hopefully, the microcosm of COVID-19 and its effects on immigration will help some people realize that.

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