How Trump’s Immigration Laws Will Affect the Fashion Industry


The CFDA has released a report on immigration that illuminates the urgent need for change in U.S. immigration laws. The report not only highlights how outdated the pre-existing policies are, it warns of the potentially devastating impact that Trump’s proposed policies could have on the fashion industry.

For the report, 100 industry professionals were interviewed. Eighty-two percent of those individuals had hired foreign workers, and 78% of the participants were headquartered in New York City. Seventy percent said that foreign talent was essential to their business, 43% said they were concerned about access to premium talent, and 35% were worried about their ability to retain their foreign employees.

For many international students graduating from fashion education programs, it can be a struggle to remain in the United States too. As of 2016, 40% of students at Parsons School of Design are international, as well as 12% of Students at the Fashion Institute of Technology. These are the two most prestigious fashion schools in America. Following graduation, students can typically only work in the US for 12 months under a special visa, with eligibility for the 24 month extension of their stay beyond that. If choosing to continue working in America after that period, recent graduates have to leave the country in order to apply for a new visa.

While these rules make starting a career in the U.S. difficult enough, Trump’s aggressive immigration policies could deter young people from applying to college here altogether. Higher education administrators are worried international applications could decrease 30% from 2016 because of Trump’s travel ban creating a climate of fear. According to the NAFSA, an international student think tank, foreign attendees at American colleges contributed .8 billion to the economy during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Those who try to immigrate to the U.S. with a job waiting for them face even more barriers. Most creative-types and fashion designers come here on H-1B visas. These visas allow people with specialized talent to work in the U.S. for up to six years. An individual can’t apply for this visa; employers must submit the application usually at great financial expense. There were 236,000 applications for H-1B’s in 2016, but there is cap of 85,000 recipients yearly. Forty three percent of the respondents to the CFDA survey said they were unable to hire the best candidate for an open position because of visa issues.

Providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers was another major recommendation made by the report. Twenty percent of garment workers are undocumented. A January executive order by the government has mandated the deportation of all illegal immigrants in America, which was a mainstay promise of Trump’s Presidential campaign. Throughout his run for office he frequently scapegoated undocumented Mexican workers as the cause of sluggish economic growth. In New York State alone it would cost an estimated .2 billion to deport 600,000 people, at a loss of 340,000 jobs statewide.

Dependent on how many of Trump’s restrictive immigration laws are pushed through, there’s a variable number of worst-case scenarios for the future. Just one glance at the mainstay figures on the New York Fashion Week calendar, for example, and it’s clear just how much immigration has benefitted the industry. Amongst others notables, Diane Von Furstenberg is originally from Belgium, Prabal Gurung is from Nepal, Oscar de la Renta moved to the States from the Dominican Republic, and Joseph Altuzarra came to America from France over a decade ago. Should the changes go through, however, the real toll on the American fashion industry will be the loss of young talent, who comprise the next generation of designers and play a vital role in creatively supporting already established brands. In its entirety, the CFDA report is a warning: If we continue to close the door to those seeking opportunity, it will ultimately be America that misses out.


prev link:
createdAt:Fri, 14 Apr 2017 20:05:44 +0000
displayType:Standard Article