2024 Election Outlook for Retailers: Immigration Policy

Mapping the Retail Impact

As immigration policy becomes a prominent issue in the 2024 presidential election, it is important for retailers to start considering the potential directions of immigration policy under either a Trump or Biden administration in 2025. Each potential administration has varying approaches to dealing with the longstanding issues surrounding legal immigration and work visas as well as the swelling border crossings and asylum claims that have crested to crisis levels.

Some of these issues, such as DACA status and H1-B visas, impact retailers directly - some issues such as restrictions at the border will have indirect impacts on retailers, their workers, consumers, and surrounding communities.

The Landscape

Under President Biden's administration, there has been a mixed approach to immigration policy. Despite campaign promises to undo many of former President Trump's immigration policies, like family separation and strict asylum rules, the reality has been more nuanced. Biden has encountered challenges at the border, including a surge in migration, leading to the consideration of adoption of some Trump-era enforcement measures. This shift has drawn criticism from progressives and immigration advocates. However, Biden has moved to reverse other Trump-era policies, such as restoring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for Dreamers and supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Looking forward, a potential second term for Biden would include a continued push for policy changes at the border, while also working to undo other Trump-era policies, with immigration reform legislation remaining a priority.

During former President Trump's term, his administration pursued a stringent stance on immigration, prioritizing border security and advocating for a border wall to deter illegal immigration. His policies included travel bans targeting specific countries and attempts to end DACA and Temporary Protected Status protections. While supporters praised his efforts to bolster border security and enforce immigration laws, critics condemned what they saw as harsh measures.

If re-elected, Trump will surely reaffirm his tough stance from his prior presidency, entailing escalating efforts to complete the border wall and seeking to resurrect and broaden former immigration policies. With a potential Republican-controlled Congress, these policies could curtail legal immigration, impacting the job market, retailers, and ultimately, consumers and workers.

The Retail Perspective

Any future administration must ensure the implementation of effective policies to manage illegal border crossings. Ineffective measures can burden communities financially, affecting taxpayers and businesses alike. A recent report estimated that U.S. taxpayers have incurred nearly half a trillion dollars in costs due to illegal immigration. To address the increased demand for resources, some cities like New York are contemplating imposing new taxes on businesses. However, it's equally crucial to establish pathways for legal immigration. Many businesses, including retailers, employ immigrants, some of whom may be targets of deportation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, immigrants accounted for 18.6% of the civilian labor force in 2023. These employees often play crucial roles in the operation of these businesses. If these employees are deported, it could cause disruption and lead to a shortage of labor. RILA has and will continue to advocate for long-term certainty for DACA recipients and modernization of the H-1B visa program.

A balanced approach that addresses both illegal border crossings and legal residency is fundamental to crafting a comprehensive immigration strategy. Whether it's a continuation of Biden's more moderate reforms or a return to Trump's hardline stance, the outcome will undoubtedly shape the future of immigration in the United States.

For more information on RILA's immigration policy work, please reach out to Director of Government Affairs Austin Gold.
  • DACA
  • Immigration
  • Public Policy
  • Workforce

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