In the South, the real immigration battle will be about business, not refugees

If metro Atlanta becomes a hub of resistance to Donald Trump’s presidency, it won’t be because John Lewis stood up or because Sally Yates was pushed out.

Nor will it be spurred by stories of refugees from the world’s wars who have suddenly found their journey blocked — or the extra-large Southern hearts that were prepared to receive them. And still are.

But temperatures might rise because decades of Republican and Democratic strategy have staked Georgia’s economic future on an economy in which cash, goods and people can move — legally — across international borders with relative ease.

That may be about to change.

While TV cameras focused on airports that had suddenly become holding cells for foreign travelers, and the White House argued that a word perfectly suitable on Sunday and Monday just wouldn’t work on Tuesday, the draft of another White House executive order began making the rounds.

This one would restrict the flow of legal, educated foreign workers sought by companies in metro Atlanta, in Silicon Valley, and other regions where the emphasis is on technology and start-ups.

“Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers — our forgotten working people — and the jobs they hold,” read a version examined by a Bloomberg reporter.

Especially within the Republican world, the H-1B visa and other immigration tools for bringing employment talent into the U.S. have suffered a sharp reversal of fortune. Once upon a time, H-1B visas were considered an alternative to shipping jobs overseas. In 2008, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned in favor of expanding the program.

With Trump, H-1B visas have become a zero-sum game. Every job given to a legal foreign worker becomes one lost by an American worker.

“I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions,” Trump said during the campaign – hammering primary rival U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for sponsoring legislation that, according to Trump, would have tripled the H-1B program.

Breitbart.com, a conservative website that has served as a platform for white nationalist causes, has campaigned against the H-1B visa program. The head of Breitbart, Steve Bannon, is now Trump’s chief strategist.

“Engineering schools are all full of people from South Asia, and East Asia,” Bannon said on his radio show last year, according to the Washington Post. “They’ve come in here to take these jobs. “Twenty percent of this country is immigrants. Is that not the beating heart of this problem?”

In 2015, the most recent year for which records are available. Georgia corporations sought 45,382 positions for foreign workers under an H-1B visa. The average annual salary was nearly $73,000. Companies in Atlanta sought nearly 28,000 positions. Alpharetta was next with nearly 6,000.

Those were only applications, an expression of need. The applications were placed in a lottery, where the odds of getting one of the visas, capped at 85,000, is approximately one in three. How many won that lottery and came to Georgia is unknown.


 

“We have all these Georgia Tech grads, but many of them go to California and New York,” said Phil Bolton, publisher of Global Atlanta, an international affairs newsletter with a subscription list of 11,000.

Atlanta can lure some of those graduates, but other areas of the state can’t. “Where are they going to get them in Covington? Where are they going to get them in LaGrange?” Bolton asked.

Thirty-seven years ago, Daryl Buffenstein settled in Atlanta to open a law practice that specialized in employment immigration. He’s now a partner with Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy — the largest law firm in Atlanta focusing exclusively on immigration.

“We spend, as a state and a city, an extraordinary amount of energy and money trying to attract foreign businesses to set up operations here because of their ability to produce employment,” said Buffenstein, a native of South Africa who is now a U.S. citizen.

“A company that comes here is going to have a relatively small but incredibly important cadre of specialists and managers and owners and investors and so on – without which the money’s not coming,” Buffenstein said. “There seems to be a lack of understanding on this issue.”

It’s not just importing workers, it’s exporting them, too. “The ability of U.S. companies to get people into other countries to work – that’s a big issue,” Buffenstein said. And it’s one that’s based on reciprocity. Think Coke.

So if there’s a Southern fight with Trump over immigration, the H-1B visa will be the field of battle. That may disappoint some with overly developed consciences, but it fits in well with our community motto.

I’ve always admired its cynical practicality. “A city too busy to hate” is a flat-out admission that we will do the right thing, eventually, though perhaps not for the right reason.

On the other hand, if there’s a sweet spot where morality and profit coincide, we’ll try to find it. In this climate, that may be something to believe in.

Reader Comments 0

37 comments
Dewey Steverson Sr.
Dewey Steverson Sr.

if you back in history some of our past presidents stop all immigrations for a period to make sure everything was in order the democrat president obammi was the one who said open borders ,president Trump is trying to set the facts straight , fill out your papers and then you might get to come if you are claered of terrorist connections

CharlesThomas Duke
CharlesThomas Duke

It's not that simply and should not be simple I simply don't agree .If your here illegally then you don't belong here

Lynne Vickers
Lynne Vickers

Atlanta Journal -AJC-fake news. You don't speak for Georgians!

Justin Hughes
Justin Hughes

Nobody actually read the article sounds like.

Dewey Steverson Sr.
Dewey Steverson Sr.

they don't speak for all Georgians if you come legally we have no problems with that but wehen you come here to live off tax payers we do have a problem with that

Charlotte Pines Farrell
Charlotte Pines Farrell

Becky Fly 'Undocumented' is the very first word in the title of the article you have referenced as your example. "UNDOCUMENTED"!

Bill Scott
Bill Scott

What the news media needs to investigate,,is where the chartered bus are parked that transports these people to these areas. I find it hard to believe that all those people, know to show up, all at once, without some kind of organization. Which, by the way, cost money.

Monte Poitevint
Monte Poitevint

Here's the BIG word: Sustainable. Policies that enrich us today, but destroy us tomorrow are: Suicidal. Flooding the country with third world demonrat voters is great for the totalitarian leftwing nut-job today, but is: Unsustainable, Suicidal, and Bad-policy. Government run by leftwing deranged nitwits is a catastrophe in the making.

Dennis Mark Mitchell
Dennis Mark Mitchell

.SHOULD ISLAMIST LEAVE THE U.S. ? ..IT IS THE BEST THING FOR ALL CONCERNED ! ISLAMIST DO NOT ASSIMILATE TO OUR CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC AND U.S.CITIZENS DO NOT ASSIMILATE TO THE GOVERNMENT OF ISLAM UNDER SHARIA LAW ! ...SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE ! ..........All should consider the ravaging, destruction and murder at the hands of radical Islamist that has been perpetrated on Europe and Australia over the past several years in this matter. "An ounce of precaution is worth more ,in this case , than a pound of cure" ! Now that our armed forces hands will be untied to fight our enemies that were armed and protected by the former Islamic sympathetic administration ...we can get down to the business of eradicating this problem . If you are someone who has not done their homework on Islam then you should ..............The problems we are faced with are much more complicated than simply welcoming another group of people who happen to be of a religion that can just harmoniously fit right in to our customs and assimilate to our Constitutional Republic. ........To be an Islamist your whole reason for existing is wrapped up in the teachings of the Islamist Holy Book known as the Quran which tells them that Islam is their government and Sharia the law by which they must live by wherever they find themselves on the planet. Furthermore the Quran tells them to work at expanding Islam and to eliminate anyone who does not believe and submit to Islam until the entire planet is dominated with only Islam . I hope you are getting the picture here. Point is Islamist will never ever assimilate to any government other than Islam. Many people have the notion that there is "Peaceful Islam" and there Is "Radical Islam" . Not true . There is only Islam with each Islamist loyal to The Quran ,working and doing their part to advance Islam to world domination. It is by our own ignorance that we have pity on these folks thinking that they aren't any different than any other people that we have welcomed to America before. We proudly and somewhat arrogantly think " Well who wouldn't want to come and share America " ? Fact is they want America but they want only Islam for our government and only Sharia for the law of the land. You will hear them chant "No Constitution ! We want only Islam and only Sharia " ! Islamist ,at first, when in a country like ours that is not an Islamist country....infiltrate the businesses,schools and governments working side by side with you ,smiling at you and pretending to assimilate to your way of life. Being very nice and seemingly respectful .They live together in communities they call "No go zones" growing their population until they are large enough to start making small demands upon the local governments .As the population gets larger so do the demands . When they get large enough then they start insisting on only Islam and only Sharia as the government and law of the land. ( Note: Islamist population growth statistics say that they out reproduce Americans 8 to 1 ) While all this is on going ...all Islamist attend Mosque where they tithe to the advancement of Islam. A portion of each tithe is then sent around the globe to support Islamist terrorist organizations such as ISIS who perform the Jihad for all of Islam . So...you must understand that large and small wherever there is an Islamist on the planet they are ALL tied together belonging to one cause and that is to dominate this world with Islam overthrowing all and any government that isn't Islam . ....Deduction ? ....By their own convictions and by nobody's fault but their own do they choose not to assimilate to the freedoms and liberties offered by our Constitutional Republic and therefore remove themselves from the equation of sharing in The American Dream and leaving our Constitutional Republic no alternative but to defend our own existence !

James Campbell
James Campbell

We are all descended from legal immigrants. And we have always regulated immigration. Just because our last president turned a blind eye to immigration laws, does not negate the fact that we are a nation of laws. Presidents are the enforcers of those laws. They are not to pick and choose which laws they want to enforce or NOT enforce.

David K Wilson
David K Wilson

You call it Georgia Politics News Now. News is brought to you as unvarnished facts by unbiased journalists. This is an opinion piece as is everything you post here. Call it something other tnen news . A much better name would be Georgia Democratic Party Propaganda Now.

Rode Tmcil
Rode Tmcil

It is hard to believe of the many things Trump has been involved or have done to negatively impact all human beings in this planet for the simple reason to become the next president of the United States. People are scared and he still free without been charge of any wrong doing.

Sean Paul
Sean Paul

Omg \U0001f632 Are you for real?

Liz Dadin
Liz Dadin

What would you suggest he be charged with? Trying to protect the Country and the people of our Country? Come one tell me what you think he should be charged with, I would like to hear it. And while you are at it please tell me what is it you are so afraid he might do?

Steve DeWeil
Steve DeWeil

We need a guest work program where the workers come to earn money and return to their home country and don't tax our welfare system.

Liz Dadin
Liz Dadin

We have that program, but they rather you beleive otherwise. They also want you to beleive they only take the jobs Americans don't want while the are bankrupting the legal Construction, Painting, Hotel, Lawn and everything else you can think of with their being paid under the table for cheap wages.

Daniel Airek
Daniel Airek

Since Georgia tightened it's illegal alien laws the farmers have been having a difficult time finding workers to pick their crops for what they can afford to pay. Now that the migrant workers will be kept out many farmers will go out of business. Americans don't want to pick crops in the fields for $7.25/hr in the Georgia heat. ..... Georgians grab knife......slash their own throats.

Liz Dadin
Liz Dadin

Georgia is proud of putting people in the fields for slave wages. I don't think it is anything to be proud of. But they still can get the work permits and return home after they have finished working. It would also be good to have the prisioners get exercise, fresh air while supporting themselves.

Nelms Graham
Nelms Graham

We have thousands on the "Dole" in GA., put them to work in the fields earning their "Checks" for a change.

John McKee
John McKee

Daniel, you perhaps inadvertently identified the rub. Bringing in cheap foreign labor depresses the job market pricing the jobs at little more than minimum wage. Those agricultural jobs are demanding and should pay more, thus making them more attractive. Yes the natural cost of produce would rise. But that is not an aberrative development but an occurrence of free market forces. In the short run artificially cheap foreign labor is great, but in the long run we can see bypassing our local workers is ultimately destructive to our local economy.

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

There are hundreds of unemployed people in mystery area collecting government checks. Let them go work for the farmers. Or allow innovation to figure it out.

Jeri Henson Dies
Jeri Henson Dies

I want everyone who reads this to know that if you voted for tRump, I don't really understand why--I will never understand why you voted to make our country a worse place to live. You have betrayed every American's future.

Nelms Graham
Nelms Graham

Granny, ya need to cut back on your medications.

Danny Lynch
Danny Lynch

Phil Woodhall go mate with her you football bragging doper..lol

Randy Motes
Randy Motes

Get your head out of obammys rear end

Phil Woodhall
Phil Woodhall

Mr. Motes, Jeri Henson Dies appears to be a retired lady, perhaps a grandmother. Read what you have just written to her. Growing up in Macon, GA, we had a word for people like you. Scum. My football team would have left you crying, regardless of the race, creed, or politics of Ms. Dies. I am embarrassed for you, that your family should see you behave this way. Do better. You might read about Flannery O'Connor's character, Hazel Motes. He was a sort of a preacher.

Liz Dadin
Liz Dadin

Guess you rather a Communist George Soros be in charge. Who do you think is behind all this rioting. I voted for Trump and darn proud of it. I appreciate what he is doing for this Country. He isn't acting like a president while organizing for a communist.'

Charlotte Pines Farrell
Charlotte Pines Farrell

Jeri Henson Dies has commented on several sites negatively regarding Trump. She is a Facebook Troll! Stirring the Pot! "If you don't feed the beast they find food elsewhere and evidently go far far away!"

Deborah Smith Author
Deborah Smith Author

I'm guessing you nor anyone in your family have the smarts or the education to compete for the high tech jobs under threat.

Marion Baker
Marion Baker

To start with Deborah Smith Author I am retired and not looking for a job . Have 4 teachers in the family , 1 a Dr. . A nurse ,a therapist and my son a business owner who does interstate business . So my question to you is if these so called refugees are so smart , Why the Hell are they coming here and not staying in their own countries and straightening those shitholes out ? Now tell me about your service to our country ! How many DD214S do you have ?

Liz Dadin
Liz Dadin

Deborah Smith Author As a matter of fact my nephew was laid off and hired by a green card worker at a cheaper wage. Oh and my nephew and the others who were laid off at the same time were Engineers. All where Air Planes were built. They took out a class action law suit and won. Didn't get their jobs back but they did have to pay them. The workers for Disney should have or still need to file a class action law suit against Disney.