Obama_Health_Care_Speech_to_Joint_Session_of_CongressInstead of using its power of the purse to rein in President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty programs, or closing the TVPRA loophole which would subject all unaccompanied alien minors to the same removal process, or holding sanctuary city jurisdictions accountable, some lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol would rather focus their energy on expanding the number of visas available for low-skilled foreign workers in this year’s spending bills. (Politico, May 3, 2016) These Members of Congress are lobbying top appropriators to include language to renew controversial provisions from last year’s omnibus spending measure that tripled the number of H-B2 low-skilled worker visas, stating that a “failure to enact this exemption will hurt seasonal businesses across the country.” (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 22, 2015, See Letter, April 26, 2016)

Last year’s omnibus amended the H-2B low-skilled guest worker program to get around the 66,000 annual cap by exempting “returning workers” who had used the visa between 2013 and 2015 from counting toward the limits.  (H.R. 2029, p. 701; see INA §§ 214(g)(1)(B); 214(g)(9)(A)) This change increased the number of low-skilled foreign workers to about 250,000. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 22, 2015)

Its quiet inclusion into the omnibus bill at the last moment without any debate at the committee level prompted an uproar among both liberal and conservative Members of Congress. True immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said, “It’s frustrating that any lawmakers would push this because the program does not need to be expanded. If anything, it needs to be constricted.” (Politico, May 3, 2016) According to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), increasing the number of H-2B visas would depress wages for American workers and lower labor standards.  This provision, it was argued, should not be “obscured in the appropriations process.”(See Letter, Dec. 3, 2015)