Labor Day Win: CEOs Hire Americans Because Donald Trump Excludes Visa Workers

President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a campaign rally at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, in Latrobe, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Business groups are training young Americans for jobs and careers because President Donald Trump temporarily blocked the inflow of foreign contract-workers, according to multiple press reports.

In Tennessee, the Gatlinburg-area tourist industry was denied many J-1 workers, so it “responded by developing a hospitality internship program that seeks to bring more U.S. college-age workers to the area,” according to a September 6 report in the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve tried to get creative,” said Allen Newton, the director of the Sevier County Economic Development Council.

In Kentucky, the horseracing industry is hiring and training Americans because Trump blocked the inflow of H-2B visa workers, according to an August 31 Associated Press report:

This month, the U.S. Department of State issued new guidance that allows more foreign workers to enter the U.S., but with the season nearly up, it’s unlikely to change things this year, said Elizabeth Conley Buckley, an immigration attorney based in Lexington.

“This exemption to the executive order is not going to help them because they never got [H-2B] visas,” she said. “So they have been dealing with any kind of staff they can put together from college students to day workers, whatever they can find.”

Laurie Mays, a project manager at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, is in charge of developing a local workforce for the horse industry. She’s optimistic about bringing more American workers into the industry but insists that the need for migrant workers would still exist when that day comes.

In Colorado, the ski industry is hiring Americans because it was denied H-2B and J-1 workers, according to The Colorado Sun:

“Trying to fill positions without an international pool of applicants is a little concerning, but we think we can replace them domestically,” said Jim Laing, the head of human resources for Aspen Skiing Co., which typically hires about 400 J-1 exchange visa workers every season. “Our applications from college kids are up pretty significantly over prior years. We are targeting college-age applicants, but they seem to be targeting us as well. That’s a bright light in this mess.”

“We have already ramped up winter season recruiting efforts and have been pleased with the results so far,” said Vail Resorts spokesman Ryan Huff. “We have found interest among students who have more flexibility now due to online learning or deferring college attendance for a year. And our employees from prior seasons are also showing enthusiasm to return.”

Before Trump’s June 22 order, many managers hired staffing firms to import blocs of controllable and disposable foreign labor, via the H-2B and J-1 labor pipelines created by Congress.

The imported workers usually work hard and earn wages close to American rates.

More importantly, many managers — especially in landscaping or forestry — prefer the imported workers. The managers understandably do not want to deal with young untrained Americans who may be unmotivated and slow, or skip work, or quit for other opportunities or jobs, or depart for college before the season ends.

“It’s so much easier to call up this middleman who has an in with a J-1 program, to get people in bunches and who are rights-free,” David North, an expert with the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Wall Street Journal. “If you’re going to run a business like this in the U.S., you ought to figure out how to recruit U.S. workers.”

Many polls show that Trump’s curbs are very popular.

Companies are also buying technology that will allow skilled Americans to get more work done each day, without reliance on foreign workers.

“Cheap labor policies are the Luddite policies of our era, and they are delaying the adoption of modern robots and technology,” Jessica Vaughan, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, told Breitbart News in July. Once deployed, the labor-saving technology will help Americans get higher wages, she said.

For example, after Trump sharply reduced the inflow of refugees in 2017, meatpacking firms began hiring U.S. technology experts and technicians to automate vital meatpacking plants, according to a July report in the Wall Street Journal:

At Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., PPC -1.88% the second-biggest U.S. chicken processor and majority-owned by JBS, deboning machines now trail humans by only 1% to 1.5%, in terms of meat yield per chicken. “They are much closer to what the person can do than seven years ago,” [said Andre Nogueira, chief executive of JBS USA, a unit of Brazilian meat company JBS SA]. Technology and automation are part of the $1 billion in capital expenditures JBS USA has planned for 2020. “One day we will be there, but we are not there yet,” he said.

Similarly, entrepreneurs are developing technology to reseed forests, instead of the current policy of H-2B seasonal workers:

But most industry groups prefer to solve their recruiting problems by hiring lobbyists and lawyers instead of engineers.

On June 22, Trump pushed past the may lobbyists and blocked the H-1B and L-1 white-collar visa-worker programs and the H-2B and J-1 blue-collar programs, until at least January 1. However, he did not entirely shut the programs down, and he is still allowing companies to hire foreign workers via the “Optional Practical Training” work permit program.

On September 4, a judge in Washington, DC, shot down a lawsuit by a business group seeking to overturn Trump’s popular policy, saying Trump has the conditional authority to bar the entry of visa workers and legal immigrants into the U.S. labor market.


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