“We have to build the wall. We have to stop drugs from pouring in. We have to stop people from just pouring into our country.” –President Donald J. Trump
In one of the most watched presidential election cycles in American history, then-candidate Donald Trump invigorated voters with his hardline stance against illegal immigration and the promise to build a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. These promises drew enthusiastic crowds on the campaign trail and eventually at the polls. Even congressional Republicans embraced border-wall fervor.
RT if you agree→ It is time for The Wall. pic.twitter.com/s5MO8SG7SL
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 1, 2017
But this week, when Congress finally released their long-awaited legislation to fund the government for the remainder of FY 2018, the will of the American people was blatantly ignored. In fact, in over 2,000 pages, the omnibus contains zero immigration-related provisions that are consistent with what President Trump and congressional Republicans told the American people they would do when they were sent to Washington. The bill does not increase the number of detention beds or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. The bill does not de-fund sanctuary jurisdictions; and most notably, the bill does not allow any funds to be used to build a concrete wall.
Despite ignoring the demands of American voters, Congress did appeal to powerful business interests by utilizing the omnibus to expand access to foreign labor by including a provision that allows the Department of Homeland Security to double the number of H-2B visas available in the current fiscal year. The same option was included in the FY2017 omnibus, with then-DHS Secretary John Kelly assuring Americans it was a “one-time” thing.
As a reminder, the H-2B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring low-skilled foreign workers to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs. These seasonal workers— imported in by industries like hospitality, landscaping, and seafood processing— are not exactly cheap. But they are certainly cheaper than the wage increases required to attract Americans to these positions. These increases would reduce company profits, but would leave hundreds of thousands of American workers in higher-wage jobs (which is something else the president championed on his campaign).
With the FY 2019 appropriations process already underway, hopefully Congress can return to regular order by funding the government through individual appropriations bills. Maybe then the jobs and safety of Americans won’t be bargaining chips in must-pass legislation being manipulated by special interest groups.