Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has promised the big business lobby tens of thousands of cheaper, blue-collar foreign workers despite President Donald Trump’s ‘Hire American’ initiative.
During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kelly told Senators that he was lobbied by the financial and open borders lobby to expand the H-2B visa, and also by pro-American worker groups who see the visa as a detriment to Americans’ wages and job opportunities.
“They’re caving to the business interest, rather than the people that elected them,” pro-American lawyer John Miano told Breitbart Texas. “Everyone but the very top is being screwed by these immigration policies.”
The H-2B visa is for non-agricultural, low-skilled seasonal work, supplying resorts, hotels and the seafood and landscaping industry with thousands of cheap, foreign employees. Every year, 66,000 H-2B jobs are given to foreign workers and this year, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s 2017 budget gave Kelly the power to expand the number of foreigners who can enter the U.S. on the visa by up to 70,000 more.
Center for Immigration Studies Director Mark Krikorian said that because Kelly is new to the H-2B visa issue, it makes him “a natural candidate for being captured by the cheap labor lobbyists, and that is what seems to have happened.”
Kelly’s surrendering on the H-2B issue, after Trump promised a staunch ‘Hire American’ agenda at the beginning of his presidency, is a win for Speaker Ryan, who pushed to put the expansion in the Secretary’s hands.
With the expansion, Ryan can claim victory for the business lobby, while at the same time shifting public backlash of the decision from Congress to the Trump administration.
Krikorian, though, says Kelly does not have an obligation to expand the H-2B visa, noting that he has no debts to the GOP-led Congress or the business lobby.
“He does not need to pull the trigger on the increase — what’s the White House going to do to him,” Krikorian asked. “They need him for more than he needs them… Kelly is perfectly capable of simply saying ‘We’re not going to do this, and that’s the end of it,’ or of diplomatically stalling until the 2017 budget language dies in October.”
Kelly’s surrender came near the end of a Senate hearing on his agency’s budget. He was asked by the GOP’s Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to deliver additional H-2B workers to her state’s fish-processing industry.
Her state’s fish-processing companies face many Asian, European and Chilean competitors who can use their own year-round fishing seasons to create a cheap and stable workforce, and also to buy labor-saving fish-processing machinery. Alaska’s isolated industry once recruited a large supply of young American workers for the summer season, but that domestic supply dried up as the companies started hiring cheaper foreign workers via the J-1 and H-2B visa programs.
Alaska’s fishing industry also faces domestic competition for the government-arrange inflow of foreign workers. Many of those workers are being recruited by companies in the easier tourist, landscaping, vacation, forestry, au-pair, and skiing industries.
That competition for imported blue-collar foreign workers is warped, however, because Kelly’s agency and the Department of Labor issues worker visas to companies a first-come, first-served basis. That first-come, first-served basis ignores’ companies economic ability to attract Americans for summer jobs, such as a cashier at the New Jersey shore, or a lawnmower operator in Austin, Texas.
Kelly answered Murkowski’s plea for cheap workers:
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.
Krikorian said Kelly surrendered on the issue from the very beginning, saying “From Kelly’s perspective, the congressman need to be happy so they won’t cause trouble for his [agency] funding — he didn’t run on a platform of defending American workers… that’s not really his business.”
Kelly also acknowledged the opposition from many legislators to the H-2B program, noting “for every Senator or Congressman that has your view, I have another one that says ‘Don’t you dare, this is about American jobs.’”
In fact, a bipartisan letter sent to DHS showed how the H-2B visa decreases the salaries paid to Americans. “A large body of evidence suggest[s] that our increasing reliance on the H-2B program cuts [Americans’] wages, pushes American workers out of jobs, and may, in some case, discourages them from every applying again,” the letter from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), David Perdue (R-GA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) stated, as Breitbart Texas reported.
For the past week, the business lobby, along with pro-immigration groups, have been lobbying Kelly to expand the H-2B visa.
In a previous Breitbart Texas report, stagnant wages coupled with an unemployment rate of more than 5 percent, counting unemployed Americans and those no longer looking for work, indicates the harm done by foreign guest worker programs like the H-2B visa.
Wages in the top 15 H-2B jobs in the U.S. have been stagnant or slightly decreased over the last decade, according to analysis by Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Miano said he is worried that Kelly’s move will mean he will cave in the coming years on the issue, telling Breitbart Texas “We’ve been talking ‘long term solutions’ for 20 years now.”
“It’s always ‘In the meantime, we need more foreign workers’ but then they just keep expanding it,” Miano said.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart Texas. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.