The government is denying more work visas, asking applicants to provide additional information and delaying approvals more frequently than just a year earlier. Hospitals, hotels, technology companies and other businesses say they are now struggling to fill jobs with the foreign workers they need.
With foreign hires missing, the employees who remain are being forced to pick up the slack. Seasonal industries like hotels and landscaping are having to turn down customers or provide fewer services. Corporate executives worry about the long-term effect of losing talented engineers and programmers to countries like Canada that are laying out the welcome mat for skilled foreigners.
At Northwell Health’s pathology lab on Long Island, a new doctor’s cubicle stands empty, her computer and microscope untouched. Other residents started July 1, but she is stuck in India’s Punjab state, held up by unexplained delays in her visa.
“There have been delays in processing that we have not felt before,” said Dr. Andrew C. Yacht, chief academic officer at Northwell, which includes Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan and North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York.
In April 2017, President Trump signed a “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, directing government officials to “rigorously enforce” immigration laws. The order did not get the kind of attention that followed the administration’s decision to separate families at the Mexican border this summer.
A few months later, the president endorsed legislation that would cut legal immigration by half. The bill was introduced by two Republican senators, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. But Republican leaders in Congress have not advanced it.
Some lawmakers say Trump is using administrative means to reshape immigration policy because those changes have stalled on Capitol Hill.
“If they want to have a proposal on immigration, they should send it to Congress,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Silicon Valley. “The administration should engage in that conversation. To unilaterally and without any accountability change what Congress has authorised is not democratic.”
In practice, businesses say the increased red tape has made it harder to secure employment-based visas. That has added to the difficulty of finding qualified workers with the unemployment rate falling to 3.9%.