Homeland defense secretary John Kelly will print 15,000 additional H-2B visas for foreign blue-collar workers in 2017, according to a statement from the agency.
The 11.00 a.m. announcement said:
U.S. businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary nonagricultural workers will be able to hire up to 15,000 additional temporary nonagricultural workers under the H-2B program …
“Congress gave me the opportunity to provide temporary relief to American businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary workers,” said DHS Secretary John Kelly. “As a demonstration of the Administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap.”
The decision was forced by GOP leaders in Congress, and is “a betrayal of [President Donald] Trump’s campaign promise to deliver blue-collar jobs to Americans,” said one opponent of the wage-cutting H-2B visa program.
“Kelly’s decision to increase H-2B foreign workers threatens to reverse the trend of reports emerging around the country of employers working harder and raising pay to successfully recruit more unemployed Americans for lower-skilled jobs,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which favors pro-American immigration reforms. He added:
Congress gave Kelly the authority to put around 70,000 more of those jobs out of the reach of Americans; at least Kelly limited the damage to keeping just 15,000 more Americans out of the labor market. Nonetheless, this is yet another example of the Administration and Congress failing to keep the Trump campaign promise of putting American workers first.”
The concession by Kelly marks a win for the GOP legislators and allied business groups who oppose President Donald Trump’s popular “Buy American, Hire American” policy.
The additional inflow of foreign workers will reduce marketplace pressure on employers to develop labor-saving technology and to streamline their business practices. The extra outsourcing visas will also reduce the pressure on companies to offer marketplace wages to recruit new employees, will reduce their incentive to train unemployed Americans from rural and urban areas, and reduce their incentive to lobby state legislators for more vocational training programs.
Kelly’s closed-door decision does not allow for a full regulatory process, which would normally allow the public to provide comments against an expansion of the cheap-labor program.
The “lack of comment period is due to lateness of the legislation (May), [the] requirement to consult with [the Department of] Labor and [the] requirement to follow the law on federal rule making in order to provide additional seasonal worker visas before we get deeper into the summer season,” spokesman David Lapan told Breitbart News on Friday.
The agency statement insisted the extra foreign workers were only for threatened businesses which are “in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary nonagricultural workers.” But DHS will only require a statement — not evidence — of “irreparable harm” from executives, saying “to qualify for the additional visas, petitioners must attest, under penalty of perjury, that their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm if it cannot employ H-2B nonimmigrant workers during fiscal year (FY) 2017.”
But DHS will only require a statement — not evidence — of “irreparable harm” from executives, saying “to qualify for the additional visas, petitioners must attest, under penalty of perjury, that their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm if it cannot employ H-2B nonimmigrant workers during fiscal year (FY) 2017.” Also, the statement does not define what level of “irreparable harm” qualifies a company to hire lower-wage foreign employees.
For example, companies suffer harm when they cannot use cheap seasonal H-2B workers to lower wages for full-time American employees, according to H-2B employers.
If wages for summer workers are forced up by market conditions, “this causes a ripple effect in all wages across the board,” Josh Denison, the hiring chief at Denison Landscaping in Oxon Hill, Md., complained to a reporter in the October 2015 issue of the industry magazine, Lawn & Landscaping. Denison continued:
If your $10.30 [an hour] basic domestic or H-2B laborer has an arbitrary wage increase, then you have to adjust wages across the board in a sliding scale to keep it fair and balanced. What happens to the $12 guy if the new guy is making more? And what happens to the $15 guy?
The program already delivers roughly 115,000 as foreign seasonal workers to Americans companies each year, mostly in the South and East. Many H-2B workers also work at winter resorts in Colorado.
The program allows companies to bring in 66,000 new workers each year — and also to keep workers who got visas in the prior two years. The rules allow companies to maintain a workforce of roughly 115,000 H-2B workers in the United States, according to an estimate by the Economic Policy Institute.
Equivalent U.S. workers have received few or no pay raises since 2007, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
Just like the white-collar H-1B visa program, the H-2B program is unpopular with the public, but lobbyists constantly pressure legislators to increase the annual inflow of foreign workers.
Politicians know the program is very unpopular. In December 2015, House Speaker Paul Ryan inserted a difficult-to-read passage into the annual spending bill that greatly expanded the program. After the November 2016 election, however, House Speaker Paul Ryan reversed the expansion.
In May, however, Ryan and other legislators again expanded the H-2B program while hiding their plan from voters. They passed the buck to Kelly by adding language in the May budget supplemental which allows the DHS secretary to expand the H-2B program by up to 70,000 new workers each year. Lobbyists then pressured Kelly — and the legislators who control the DHS budget — to quickly expand the program via low-profile regulatory changes so that foreign workers can be hired and rushed into jobs later this summer, fall and winter.
The wage-cutting plan was covered by Breitbart but was largely ignored by the establishment media.
In May, Kelly initially said he would reluctantly approve some extra workers, but then quickly backtracked. “I know we already have large numbers [of contract workers] that come in and have been coming in over the years, but … in the current administration, this is all about American jobs versus people that come in and do the work,” Kelly told Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in early June.
Then Kelly agreed to increase the visa numbers as he came under increased pressure from lobbyists and GOP and Democratic legislators, led by GOP Sen. Thom Tillis.
Spokesman Lapan complained about the pressure, saying Kelly “is concerned that Congress is passing the buck by not clearly legislating the H2B visa numbers, and expects that this one-time occurrence is an anomaly.”
Kellly’s approval of the extra H-2B visas will likely encourage the GOP legislators and companies to seek even more H-2B in future years.
Here is Kelly’s May statement to the appropriations committee:
This is one of things I really wish I did not have any discretion, and for every Senator or Congressman that has your view, I have another one that says ‘Don’t you dare, this is about American jobs.’ You know the argument, both sides. My staff, members of my staff, are coordinating with the Department of Labor on this. One of the things, and I have my working class root background that keeps reminding me that some of these individuals —not necessarily in Alaska — but many, many of these individuals are victimized when they come up here, in terms of what they’re paid and all the rest of it, so we’re working with Labor, Department of Labor, to come up with an answer to this, but we really do need a long-term solution, so we’ll work with the Senate and with Congress, within the industry, this year, and again, I’ll have my staff when they return from Labor and we get some protocols in place, we’ll likely increase the numbers for this year, perhaps not by the entire number that I’m authorized, but we really do need, I’m really looking forward to working with you Senator, and the whole Congress, to get a longer-term solution to this.