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Omnibus Increases Number of Unskilled Guest Workers

The year-end spending deal unveiled early Wednesday morning includes a provision that would increase the number of guest worker visas available to unskilled foreign nationals seeking employment in the U.S.

According to Ian Smith, an attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, language inserted into the omnibus spending deal would nearly quadruple the number of H-2B visa workers admitted to the U.S. next year to about 250,000.

The section of the more than 2,000-page omnibus bill that contains the provision, the immigration reduction group NumberUSA reports, is on page 701.  It reads:

“SEC. 565. Section 214(g)(9)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184(g)(9)(A)) is amended by striking ‘‘2004, 2005, or 2006 shall not again be counted toward such limitation during fiscal year 2007.’’ and inserting ‘‘2013, 2014, or 2015 shall not again be counted toward such limitation during fiscal year 2016.’’

H-2B visas are intended for low-skilled foreign nationals to work temporarily in nonagricultural positions when American workers are unavailable. According to recent reports, however, some employers have abused the system, devising strategies to hire H-2B visa holders over American workers.

As Smith writes at National Review:

Many of these unskilled jobs traditionally go to society’s most vulnerable — including single women, the disabled, the elderly, minorities, teenagers, students, and first-generation immigrants. H-2B employers love the program because, as with the H-1B program for skilled foreigners, the worker’s visa is tied to his employment, which makes him less likely to unionize. Unsurprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce lists expanding the H-2B program as one of its “Policy Priorities for 2015.” And like most of our immigration programs, the H-2B operates mechanistically, giving jobs to foreign workers without any consideration for domestic labor conditions: Regardless of the state of the economy, the cap stays the same.

A GOP aide called the H-2B insert the “Gang of Eight back to life” in an email to reporters, because the controversial 2013 immigration reform bill also increased the number of H-2B visas.

In recent weeks Sen. Bernie Sanders (D – VT), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have all warned against inserting the language into the spending deal.

For example, in November, Sessions wrote to Senate appropriators, “Flooding this loose labor market with additional low-skilled labor hurts the wages and reduces  the job prospects of those who are recent immigrants and native-born who are struggling the most.”

The House is slated to vote on the $1.1 trillion spending deal Friday, according to The Hill.

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