Will the Trump administration stand by its pledge to protect U.S. workers and remake immigration in the national interest, or won’t it?
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is set to announce her decision (yes, her decision) about yet ANOTHER increase in low-skilled, H-2B visas. The annual cap of 66,000 visas, approved by Congress, has already been reached, and big business is screaming for cheaper, exploitable foreign workers. Last year, then-DHS Secretary John Kelly increased the cap by 15,000 visas, calling it a “one-time increase.” So, Secretary Nielsen, what will it be? Here are a few things people should be aware of regarding this little known-visa category.
Here are the four top reasons why an H-2B increase is a really bad idea:
- These visas are for jobs that Americans won’t do: H-2B visas are for low-skilled jobs that have always been filled by Americans and legal immigrant workers, including such jobs as housekeepers, landscapers and hotel workers.
- The unemployment rate is so low that we need to import low-skilled workers: The national unemployment rate might be 4.1 percent, but according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate in the construction industry is much higher. For average construction workers it’s 9.7 percent, 8.9 percent in building and grounds cleaning/ maintenance, and 11.3 percent for farming, fishing, and forestry occupations.
- All U.S. workers willing to do these jobs are already employed: Recent data from BLS shows that more than 50 percent of working age Americans without a high school degree are not in the labor force. The number of unemployed workers 25 and older, with a high school degree or less, totaled more than 2 million in 2017.
- H-2B workers are allowed to bring their spouses and minor children, too: Instead of bidding up wages by a few dollars an hour if they can’t find a U.S. worker, this program allows employers to seek workers from abroad, thus cutting their wage costs overall. And when these workers plop their kids into the local school system – at an average cost well in excess of $ 10,000 per year – local taxpayers, not the business owner who imported the worker, get hit with the bill.
The bottom line: If employers can search for these “much needed” workers abroad, then they can search a little harder for them here. Or maybe bid up wages a skosh. Those workers are here, these are jobs that Americans are doing every day, and there are plenty of unemployed workers who want to work.
So, whose side will you come down on, Secretary Nielsen?