North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis is demanding the Department of Homeland Security hand over more H-2B worker visas before he allows Senate approval of a top homeland security official.
President Donald Trump has appointed Lee Francis Cissna to serve as director of the DHS’s critical U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. The agency is responsible for screening arrivals and immigrants to prevent jihad attacks and other terrorism. Cissna has been approved by the Senate committee, but he won’t get a Senate approval vote soon because Tillis asked the GOP’s leader to put a so-called “hold” on the nomination.
Tillis put the hold in Cissna because he wants John Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security, to provide more H-2B work visas so employers can import thousands of additional blue-collar, low-wage foreign workers this summer, fall, and winter. The extra workers will allow the companies to minimize wages and training for Americans, including non-working Americans.
The North Carolina Senator has repeatedly said he wants to let companies hire more cheap-labor contract workers. Before being elected in 2006, he worked as a manager at IBM and at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Both firms are heavily involved in the white-collar outsourcing business.
An April poll showed Tillis has roughly 39 percent approval in his home state, according to the McClathchy news service, but he does not face the voters until 2020.
Each year, the federal government provide 66,000 new H-2B visas to foreign workers. The workers can stay up to three years, so experts estimate that about 115,000 H-2Bs are working in the United States for landscapers, resorts, hotels, seafood processors and other low-wage, blue-collar employers. Tillis, backed by a group of other Senators, wants to import up to 70,000 additional H-2Bs every year. The extra inflow would likely ensure a resident population of roughly 200,000 foreign blue-collar workers, which will allow employers to cut more wages for part-time and full-time American workers.
Kelly has stated he is reluctant to provide the extra H-2B visas, partly because of the administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” strategy. He also knows that he will face more congressional pressure for yet more H-2Bs in 2018 if he approves any extra H-2B workers in 2017. But Kelly is under pressure from the Senators who control his agency’s budget and who also control the Senate approval of his top aides.
Tillis’ office confirmed the hold on Cissna to the Washington Times, which reported:
“Several senators, including Sen. Tillis, have concerns with DHS’ timeline because it would negatively impact seasonal small businesses and American workers across the nation this summer,” said Daniel Keylin, a spokesman for the senator, in explaining his blockade. “The hold is in place while these concerns are being addressed with DHS.”
Pro-American immigration reformers denounced Tillis’ pressure tactics. “Senator Tillis’s decision to prevent Francis Cissna from becoming USCIS Director should remove any doubt that he is a shill for business interests,” said Robert Law, the government relations chief at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Law continued:
Francis is eminently qualified but Senator Tillis is holding his nomination hostage until he gets more H-2B low skilled foreign workers. This brazen move to deprive USCIS of its leader and diminish the job prospects of blue collar Americans makes it clear that Thom Tillis is the cheap labor lobby’s favorite senator.
— NumbersUSA (@NumbersUSA) July 11, 2017
— Jessica Vaughan (@JessicaV_CIS) July 11, 2017
DHS spokesman David Lapan told Breitbart said the agency would deliver extra workers demanded by Tillis:
On the H-2B issue, the Department is working as quickly as it can, given the circumstances imposed by Congress — May passage of the legislation (rather than Sept. or Oct.), the requirement in the legislation for the Secretary to consult with the Dept. of Labor, and the requirement to follow the law related to regulatory changes – which is why we are where we are today.
Lapan also defended Cissna, saying:
Francis Cissna is well-respected and highly qualified and Secretary Kelly looks forward to a confirmation vote by the Senate as soon as possible. Mr. Cissna received overwhelming support from the Senate Judiciary committee.
Employers, the labor brokers who hire and lease H-2B workers, and their open-borders allies are working with Tillis to get their foreign workers:
— NALP (@the_nalp) April 26, 2017
No H-2B cap relief today and no notice that it will come tomorrow. Still monitoring. #SaveH2B
— Hall Law Office (@wendelhalldc) July 10, 2017
Finally, a Republican who supports relatively freer markets. https://t.co/pQat0OiTqr
— (((Alex Nowrasteh))) (@AlexNowrasteh) July 11, 2017
Employers say they can’t find enough diligent American employees, and they cannot persuade K-12 schools to train more Americans in blue-collar skills.
But there’s no marketplace evidence of labor shortages because there is no evidence in government data that wages are rising for H-2B employees, according to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies:
real wages (adjusted for inflation) increased little or actually declined from 2007 to 2015 for most of these [H2B] occupations. In fact, collectively in these eight occupations real wages were 1.3 percent lower in 2015 than they were in 2007. And for native-born born Americans in the eight occupations wages were 2.8 percent lower.
The occupation that did the best from 2007 to 2015 was maids and housekeepers; it saw roughly a 7.7 percent increase from 2007 to 2015, or 1 percent annual wage growth on average above inflation.
Without the extra H-2B workers sought by Tillis, employers are changing how they do business and are sometimes even raising wages to attract new Americans workers. According to a pro-employer report in the Boston Globe:
In anticipation of the H-2B limits, Framingham immigration lawyer Keith Pabian helped connect his hospitality clients with foreign workers who were already working in the United States over the winter — at ski resorts and in Florida — and therefore did not have to reapply for a visa and are not subject to the cap. H-2B workers are allowed to stay for three years continuously on the same visa as long as they have jobs lined up.
Some of Pabian’s higher-end clients went on recruiting trips to winter resorts around the country and got in bidding wars with other companies in an attempt to attract workers who already have visas.
But dozens of smaller employers with fewer resources are still scrambling, including a resort on Lake Champlain in Vermont that considered buying a school bus to drive around the state and pick up workers who didn’t have a way to get there.
“That’s just the level of desperation in a lot of these organizations,” Pabian said.
H-2B workers have one big advantage for employers — they cannot quit to go work for another company at higher wages, but must stay with the same employer who got the H-2B visa.
“H-2B workers, they’ll stay with you,” restaurant owner Todd Barry told a sympathetic Boston Globe reporter. “If they don’t [stay], they have to leave the country.”
The H-2B population of roughly 115,000 H-2Bs is just part of the growing population of outsourcing workers who now hold jobs in the United States, most of whom work in white-collar jobs. Their overall numbers may reach 2 million, including roughly 350,000 ‘OPT’ college graduates and 650,000 H-1B professionals. For comparison, roughly 800,000 Americans graduate each year from four-year colleges with skilled degrees.