With disastrously low labor participation rates, the United States does not have a shortage of American workers who are unable to fill low-skilled jobs, but rather too few Americans are working in those low-skilled jobs currently open to temporary foreign workers on H-2B visas, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
“Not only have we been told that Americans are not willing to do jobs that H-2B workers often fill, but also that employers simply cannot find anyone to do them,” Sessions, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, said opening a hearing on the impact of the H-2B visa program on American workers.
“Some say they just cannot find anyone who will drive a truck or build houses or commercial buildings, wait tables, push a lawnmower, work in the landscaping or clean hotels. Yet,” he added, “with few execptions, this is not the case.”
According to Sessions, American workers are not in short supply. The Department of Labor reported last month the labor participation rate for all Americans was 62.6 percent, for those with a high school equivalent it was 57 percent, and for those without a high school diploma the labor participation rate was just 44 percent.
“These statistics make clear that there is simply not a shortage of American workers, rather there is a shortage of Americans with jobs to work. Too few have jobs,” Sessions said.
But special interests demand more foreign labor, which Sessions stressed is less expensive and “easier to exploit.” Accordingly, the Alabama lawmaker argued that it is up to Congress to focus on the plight of American workers.
“Somebody needs to be concerned about America,” Sessions said.
“What’s happening to our people, our country, our economy,” he continued. “How many people on welfare? How many people need to be working instead of being on welfare? How many people’s retirement is being compromised because they are out of work for extended periods of time, and wouldn’t they like to have a pay raise every now and then, instead of having flat wages for the last 20 years?”
In addition to depressing wages, working conditions, and impacting the job market, some H-2B workers come to the U.S. and abscond, adding to the illegal immigration population, according to Sessions. The committee chairman said that at least 15,854 H-2B workers since 2009 have left their employer and it is unclear whether they returned home or remained in the U.S.
“The H2B program, like so many of our immigration programs, is not serving the national interests, the people’s interest,” Sessions said. “Our focus needs to be getting Americans back to work, not on seeing how many foreign workers we can bring to the United States.”