The Trump Travel Bans and the Economic Impact of Immigration

February 2, 2021

In 2017, President Trump signed a series of “travel bans,” executive orders restricting travel and immigration to the US from several Muslim-majority countries. These enactments, later revoked by President Biden’s executive order during his first week in office, were immediately challenged in federal courts across the United States. One such case was Trump v. Hawaii, which was argued before the US Supreme Court in 2018.

Seeking to provide an objective, evidence-based contribution to the national dialogue about the role of immigrants in the US economy, a large Analysis Group pro bono team led by President Pierre Cremieux, Principal Almudena Arcelus, and Vice President Jee-Yeon Lehmann assisted the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), New England’s largest technology organization, in preparing a comprehensive report titled The Economic Impact of Immigration on the U.S.

A team of more than 65 Analysis Group consultants researched, analyzed, and compiled empirical evidence on the impact of immigration on economic growth, the labor market, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the US. The report offered a clear picture of the critical role that immigrants play in driving innovation and growth, in the technology sector in particular and the US economy more broadly. Among other findings, the report showed that:

  • Immigrants are responsible for substantial economic growth in the US, contributing $2 trillion to US GDP in 2015.
  • More than half of American startup companies valued at $1 billion or more were founded by first-generation immigrants.
  • 48% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first-generation immigrants or their children.
  • During the 2015–16 academic year, international students contributed almost $33 billion to the US economy, and supported more than 400,000 jobs.
  • 40% of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine, and physics since 2000 were awarded to first-generation immigrants, and 42% of the researchers at the top seven US cancer research centers are foreign-born.

Based on these and other findings, the report concluded that “[t]he integral role that immigrants play in the technology industry is one of job creation, innovation, and leadership. Far from taking jobs, immigrants are creating jobs for the native-born population and helping meet the needs of an industry constrained by a lack of skilled workers.”

The report was included in amicus briefs submitted by MassTLC to the US District Court for the District of Hawaii, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the US Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii, in support of the challengers seeking to overturn the travel bans. The Supreme Court ultimately held in a 5–4 decision that the travel bans were constitutional. However, the MassTLC’s amicus brief was cited in the dissenting opinions of both Justice Breyer and Justice Sotomayor. Referring to the brief, Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the travel bans “[have] deleterious effects on … the Nation’s technology industry and overall economy.”

On January 20, 2021, the first day of his administration, President Biden signed an executive order revoking the travel bans. In his signing statement accompanying the order, the president noted that “[i]mmigrants have helped strengthen America’s … communities, businesses and workforce, and economy, infusing the United States with creativity, energy, and ingenuity.” That declaration accords with the report’s conclusion that “diversity and the global mobility of talent and ideas into our country are critical drivers of U.S. innovation, economic growth, and global competitiveness.”

Read the report