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Ryan Adds 1.35 Million Low-Wage Visa-Workers to Revive His Fading Amnesty Bill

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AP Photo/David Goldman

House Speaker Paul Ryan has added a huge cheap-labor visa-worker program to his stalled amnesty bill in the hope of getting support from agriculture-district GOP legislators before the scheduled Wednesday vote.

The bill would allow food-sector employers to keep a population of up to 1.35 million “H-2C” guest-workers working on farms and in the food-processing industry. The law would allow employers to bring in 450,000 workers per year, under three-year visas, who would largely replace the existing population of roughly 1 million illegal immigrants — and also force wages down for many Americans and legal immigrants.

The offer of cheap visa-workers is intended to pressure GOP legislators in rural districts — including many of the GOP members in the House Freedom Caucus — to vote for Ryan’s amnesty. The extra workers are also sought by many GOP members who signed the discharge-petition amnesty push, even though the cheap foreign workers would damage the wages and livelihoods of their constituents.

“This whole program makes it very clear that the Republican leadership leader and the Representatives involved in these negotiations don’t understand what the 2016 election was about, have not read their party’s platform for the 2016 election, and are on the side of Wall Street, not Main Street,” said Rosemary Jenks, policy director for NumbersUSA. She added: 

It is exactly the forgotten American workers who put [President Donald] Trump into the White House who these [GOP] people are trying to the kick to the curb again.

The guest-worker program is attached to a mandate that companies use the E-Verify system to screen new hires for eligibility to work. E-Verify is backed by populists who oppose Ryan’s bill but is strongly opposed by Senate Democrats and business groups because it would allow federal penalties against employers who hire any of the 8 million illegal-immigrant workers in the United States.

The H-2C visa-worker program is backed by many business groups because it would force down the price of labor in many sectors by dramatically increasing the supply of workers. The workers are especially sought by the low-tech agriculture industry, which is facing increased competition from high-tech competitors overseas, many of whom also use cheaper labor than in the United States.

The H-2C and E-Verify measures were added because Ryan’s amnesty-and-reform bill looks set to receive fewer votes than a stronger bill drafted by Rep. Bob Goodlatte. The Ryan bill offers amnesty and citizenship to at least 1.8 million ‘DACA’ illegals — which is not enough for GOP donors –while the Goodlatte bill offers renewable work permits to the 700,000 people already registered as DACA illegals.

Ryan’s inclusion of an amnesty is a political problem for many GOP legislators, admitted one pro-migration GOP legislator, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She told McClatchy news service:

Folks might forget what the president said but they’ll remember how you voted … Immigration is just the electric chair of politics for Republicans.

President Donald Trump has urged GOP leaders to give up their push for an amnesty this year, saying it would be blocked by Senate Democrats. So far, roughly 40 GOP legislators have refused to support Ryan’s bill. Instead of pushing for an amnesty, Trump wants the GOP to negotiate an immigration fix in 2019 after more GOP legislators are added to the Senate.

Few legislators expect Ryan’s bill will win a majority on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Ryan said “I want to lean into that [Wednesday] vote and do as well as we possibly can in that vote.”

In contrast to Ryan’s stalled bill, Goodlatte’s bill got 195 votes in a vote last week, even without whipping by Ryan and his leadership team. That vote was only 27 votes short of a majority, prompting GP legislators to say it would have passed if Ryan had pressured all GOP legislators to back the bill.

Ryan’s bill may get fewer than 195 votes in the Wednesday vote, marking a serious symbolic defeat for Ryan, the GOP’s business-first wing and its alliance of business donors.

Under the proposed H-2C program, the visa-workers would be allowed to work as farm hands, foresters, loggers, road-maintenance workers, meatpackers, fish-processors, and as packers who sort and package farm products for sale to restaurants and retail outlets, according to the legislation. It says:

all activities required for the preparation, processing or manufacturing of a product of agriculture (as such term is defined in such section 13 3(f)), or fish or shellfish, for further distribution … except that in regard to labor or services consisting of meat or poultry processing, the term ‘agricultural labor or services’ only includes the killing of animals and the breakdown of their carcasses …

The term ‘forestry-related activities’ includes tree planting, timber harvesting, logging operations, brush clearing, vegetation management, herbicide application, the maintenance of rights-of-way (including for roads, trails, and utilities), regardless of whether such right-of-way is on forest land, and the harvesting of pine straw.

The workers would have to be paid at least 50 percent above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or $11 per hour, but the workers also must buy basic health insurance. The migrants would not be allowed to bring their spouses and children and would have to return home every three years.

The program would grandfather all resident farmworker illegals, and it would be raised by 10 percent each year when employers run out of visas.

Whenever H-2C workers escape to towns and cities for higher-wage jobs, farmers will be allowed to bring in extra replacement H-2C workers, the bill says.

The program would sideline the fast-growing H-2A program which requires farmers to provide housing and travel costs. Those regulations ensure that H-2A workers cost $20 per hour, say employers.

The H-2C program would complement the existing H-2B program, which provides up to 66,000 workers for a variety of non-agriculture jobs, including meat-packing. It would operate alongside the J-1 visa program which provides 350,000 workers for the fish processing industry as well as for resorts, hotels, and restaurants.

The visa-worker programs are backed by many Democratic and GOP Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is widely described as a  “moderate” by establishment media sites. For example, Politico suggested that the guest-worker program is supported by “centrists,” saying:

The addition of E-Verify could cause problems for centrist Republicans who hail from agricultural districts whose farmers could be hit hard by the mandate. The latest amendment would also include a new agriculture worker program to try to ease centrists’ concerns. But some moderates, like Rep. David Valadao from California’s Central Valley, aren’t sure they can support the bill if E-Verify is included.

The establishment endorsement of a cheap-labor program is commonplace, partly because nearly all reporters on the immigration beat ignore the economic and civic impact of cheap labor immigration on Americans’ wages and salaries, communities, local investment and productivity.

The H-2C program is a payoff to the farm sector to muffle their opposition to the E-Verify program which Ryan is adding to get more votes, said Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

But the H-2C plan would trap farmers in a low-tech, low-productivity business model that leaves them vulnerable to even cheaper foreign competitors, he said. “The problem is that farmers have lobbied themselves into a [cheap-labor] dead-end, then any program like this should have provisions for a transition out,” such as federal research and low-interest loans to develop and buy labor-saving technology,” he said.

The fact that there is not a reference to this [in the bill] means they see reliance on cheap foreign labor as a permanent part of their business model rather than something to evolve out of a 19th century was of business. H-2c is to perpetuate the stoop-labor business that too many farmers of fresh fruit and vegetables cling too. Nobody touches cotton when it harvested, nobody touches what barley, soybeans, corn. That’s all mechanized … A farm worker program that is coupled with research and subsidized to break the addiction to cheap labor is in the national interest.

Ryan’s addition of H-2C and Verify likely won’t make any difference to the final vote, said Jenks. “Nobody on the left is going to vote for this anyway — they dislike the [border] enforcement provisions, and they don’t want to cooperate on immigration [reforms] at all.”

Ryan has long favored high levels of immigration to help businesses import new employees, and has opposed President Donald Trump’s lower-immigration/higher-wages policy. In a 2013 presentation with amnesty advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez, for example, Ryan said he favored an “open door” immigration policy that would allow businesses to freely hire foreign workers at lower wages than sought by American college-graduates and blue-collar workers.

Migration Economics

Currently, four million Americans turn 18 each year and begin looking for good jobs in the free market — but the government provides green cards to roughly 1 million legal immigrants and temporary work-permits to roughly 3 million foreign workers.

The Washington-imposed economic policy of economic growth via mass-immigration shifts wealth from young people towards older people by flooding the market with foreign labor. That process spikes profits and Wall Street values by cutting salaries for manual and skilled labor offered by blue-collar and white-collar employees. The policy also drives up real estate priceswidens wealth-gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts kids’ schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and sidelines at least 5 million marginalized Americans and their families, including many who are now struggling with opioid addictions.

Polls

Amnesty advocates rely on business-funded “Nation of Immigrants” push-polls to show apparent voter support for immigration and immigrants.

But “choice” polls reveal most voters’ often-ignored preference that CEOs should hire Americans at decent wages before hiring migrants. Those Americans include many blue-collar Blacks, Latinos, and people who hide their opinions from pollsters. Similarly, the 2018 polls show that GOP voters are far more concerned about migration — more properly, the economics of migration — than they are concerned about illegal migration and MS-13, taxes, or the return of Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Harvesting onions in Washington State:

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