The chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), respectively, issued a joint statement criticizing the lack of “transparency” in the authorization of additional H-2B visas in Monday’s House funding resolution.
The statement came after it became clear Monday that the House budget resolution passed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and his Republican majority included language allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to potentially increase the number of foreign workers allowed into the United States through the H-2B visa program.
In the resolution as written, the Secretary of Homeland Security may increase the number of admitted temporary workers “upon the determination that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2017 with United States workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor[.]”
Thi phrasing might allow a near tripling of the participants in the program for seasonal non-agricultural workers. The Center for Immigration Studies’ Mark Krikorian tweeted that the law as written “makes a mockery of the law’s numerical ‘limits’.”
The bipartisan Senate Judiciary leaders criticized the way in which the potential change was made, ceding congressional immigration oversight to the executive branch without debate on the potential outcome:
The Constitution clearly provides that Congress shall determine the nation’s immigration policy, and the Senate places such policy squarely in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. This move by leadership and appropriators cedes portions of this authority to the Executive Branch without a public debate by the committee of jurisdiction for the policy.
Grassley and Feinstein called for the House leadership to take the language out of the bill and allow debate on the wisdom of the change, saying, “We understand the needs of employers who rely on seasonal H-2B workers if the American workforce can’t meet the demand, but we are also aware of the potential side effects of flooding the labor force with more temporary foreign workers, including depressed wages for all workers in seasonal jobs. The bottom line is that this issue deserves more thoughtful consideration. Appropriators should remove this provision and give the Judiciary Committee time to properly consider and debate this change to our nation’s immigration laws.”