Trump Policies Joined with Covid-19 Have Reduced Migration Substantially

By David North on September 28, 2020

The migration-reduction polices of this administration, when joined with the dampening effects of the Covid-19 situation, have made a major dent (at least temporarily) on international migration to the United States, as the following table indicates.

Impact of Trump Policy and Covid-19 on Select Migration Measures, July 2019 and July 2020 (in ascending order of negative impact)

Selected Migration Measures Number,
July 2019
July 2020
Decisions, Administrative Appeals Office, USCIS (est.) 2,300 2,400 4.20%
H-2A (farmworker) visas issued in Mexico 14 654 12,681 -13.50%
SW Border apprehensions 71,978 38,463 -46.60%
Border crossings from Mexico, five largest ports of entry 8,900,256 4,264,284 -52.00%
K-1 (fiancée) visas issued in Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam 1,155 145 -87.40%
Immigrant visas, world-wide* 39,568 4,412 -88.80%
Nonimmigrant visas, world-wide 810,329 57,917 -92.90%
Border crossings from Canada, five largest ports of entry 3,044,804 143,250 -95.30%
H-2B (non-ag, unskilled) visas issued in Mexico and Jamaica 3,599 112 -96.90%
F-1 (student) visas issued in India and China 37,126 255 -99.30%
Issuances of E-2 (nonimmigrant investor) visas in Canada, Great Britain and Italy 961 5 -99.50%

Sources: Various governmental databases, such as DHS, DOT, and State; AAO data are estimates supplied by the USCIS press office. When numbers are shown for several countries, as with E-2, for example, they are for the largest providers of migrants in that category.

* This might suggest the total for the year would be 500,000 or so — that is misleading, close to half of the new permanent resident aliens each year adjust status within the United States and do not need a visa.

Many migration measures are available only on a quarterly (or a yearly) basis, so we decided to look at a series of measures with monthly totals, choosing July 2019 (as the norm) and July 2020 as bases for comparison of the impacts of the tightening factors on some key flows of migrants.

One of the variables shown above has no policy implications; the steady flow of AAO decisions simply reflects the fact that this process, like home-schooling, was not impacted by the virus; AAO judges work solely from paper appeals and never, or virtually never, have hearings.

As to policy implications, the table shows the fact that migration from Mexico, in all shapes and forms, has been less hurt by U.S. policies than migration from any other nation. The relatively mild reductions in H-2A visa issuances and border crossings reflects the power of U.S. agribusiness and that of the retailers in the border areas, respectively. Further, as my colleague Art Arthur has pointed out, the U.S. government regards shopping trips across the southern border as "essential travel".

I was a bit surprised to see the relatively lower reduction in the rate of K-1 visas issued as opposed to those for students and nonimmigrants generally. This is a controversial visa that is not needed to create citizen-alien marriages and one that frequently leads to immigration-related marriage fraud.

The author is grateful to Jackson Koonce, a CIS intern, for his research assistance.