Immigration ‘Will Be Central’ to Election 2020: A Q&A with David Frum


Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer October 22, 2019
Immigration ‘Will Be Central’ to Election 2020: A Q&A with David Frum

David Frum

​David Frum, an author, noted thinker and senior editor at The Atlantic, has spent decades in politics and media, serving in former President George W. Bush's administration and at several think tanks.

He's a speaker at this year's SHRM Global Mobility and Immigration Symposium, where he'll be talking about the roiled political landscape, the upcoming 2020 presidential election, and U.S. immigration and trade policy.

In this interview with SHRM Online, Frum discussed U.S. immigration and trade concerns and global migration.

SHRM Online: How might immigration affect the 2020 presidential election?

Frum: Immigration will be central to both parties' messaging in 2020. Despite generally favorable economic conditions, President [Donald] Trump faces a tough re-election in 2020 and will stoke some ugly fears of immigration. His plan—which his managers already talk about—is to accept near-certain loss of the popular vote and instead to run an Electoral College strategy based on mobilizing white resentment to flip states like Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Democrats have been pushed by their own left-tilting primary politics to an immigration position of unprecedented radicalism—opposed to almost any enforcement within the interior of the United States, except against actual felons, and acceptance at face value of almost all asylum claims, which ran at 100,000 per month in the first half of 2019.

SHRM Online: Should the U.S. focus more on admitting immigrants with technical skills, rather than favor family relationships?

Frum: Recently naturalized people can sponsor not only spouses, but also parents, siblings and those siblings' children. Each accepted immigrant to the U.S. on average will sponsor 4.5 people after him or her. But—and this is the big but—the numbers for many of these family categories are capped, only so many per year. This creates the huge queues that characterize the U.S. system.

Promises that cannot be honored should not be extended in the first place. For that reason, the sibling preference especially should be abolished.

Meanwhile, the skilled category should be rethought. Incredibly, H-1B [visas] are issued on a first come, first served basis. Truly indispensable executive talent is often stuck, as the very biggest tech companies jam the system with visa applications for routine programmers with an eye more to restraining wages than filling an authentic skills gap.

SHRM Online: What are the ramifications for employers if the administration's trade wars continue?

Frum: Trade wars—not only U.S. versus China, but also U.S. versus the world and EU [European Union] versus the U.K.—are already slowing growth. They could push us into recession and direct us to a world generally raising barriers to investment and trade, as well as migration. Employers may appreciate specific policies of the Trump administration, but these particular favors to particular industries are overwhelmed by the reckless trade, fiscal and monetary policies that threaten crisis in the near term and stagnation in the medium term.

SHRM Online: If we enter a recession, what are the implications for global mobility?

Frum: Mobility in the 21st century will be driven more by push than by pull factors. A vast, new, global striver class, people earning $10 to $20 a day in their native countries, can afford to diversify their family economic strategy by investing $5,000 to $10,000 to traffic one of their sons into a developed country. The number of such sons in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia is rising at a pace unprecedented in world history. Young men without prospects at home will seek them in Europe and the U.S., and democratic systems will struggle to respond wisely.

Register to hear David Frum, plus government officials, legal experts, and immigration and global-mobility professionals at the SHRM Global Mobility and Immigration Symposium, Nov. 3-6, in Washington, D.C.


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