The Department of Homeland Security is drafting recommendations for Congress to reform the H-2B cheap-labor program, according to a July 6 letter to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate’s judiciary committee.
“The report will include options on how the program can better serve out national interests … DHS is committed to ensuring that our immigration system is implemented lawfully and that American workers are protected,” said the letter, signed by L Francis Cissna, the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
One reform urged by Cissna would be a requirement that participating companies agree to use the E-Verify program to screen all employees for work eligibility. The E-Verify system is free, and it allows companies to reject illegal immigrants who are using fake identities.
However, legislators are unlikely to approve any H-2B reform which reduces the annual inflow of H-2B workers, or which allocates them towards the industries which least able to hire temporary U.S. workers, such as the shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico or the crab industry in Maryland.
Congress is also unlikely to support a change that would deny H-2B workers to federal contractors, such as forestry companies, because the program is defended by an active alliance of labor brokers and landscapers who try to focus the media’s H-2B coverage away from Americans’ wages and towards picturesque industries, such as Maryland crabbers.
Cissna did not call for ending the program:
I share Secretary [Kirstjen] Nielsen’s opinion that Members of Congress have the best information to know the “right” number of H-2B visas needed to support Americans busineesss without harming American workers. This is because congressional representatives have the best understanding of their constituencies and the needs of their local employers.
But, he added, “I share the Secretary’s desire to work together with Congress to limit H-2B visas to employers with truly temporary needs.”
Reforms will likely be opposed by the labor brokers which hire many of the H-2B workers, and by landscaping contractors, which are the biggest employer of H-2B workers.
Already, the bipartisan cheap-labor caucus in Congress has been pushing to expand the H-2B program for several years, far beyond its current annual cap of 66,000 workers. In 2017 and 2018, the cap was raised by 15,000 workers, to roughly 80,000.
Many of the H-2B workers are hired by labor brokers and work a series of non-agricultural jobs in a variety of locations, for example, kitchen work in summertime resorts followed by kitchen work at winter ski resorts.
The H-2B visa operates alongside various visa-worker programs, including the H-2A program for agricultural workers and the J-1 program for summer workers. There several similar programs for foreign college-graduate workers, including the H-1B, L-1, OPT and EAD programs which keep roughly 1.5 million foreign college-grads in U.S. jobs.
The visa workers are usually paid less than Americans, and more importantly, they lower the wage floor for all workers in each company, so freeing up more revenue for profits and investors. When wages for summer workers are forced up a shortage of possible workers, “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 existence of the cheap-labor visa-program means that companies which do not ask for the cheap H-2B labor are placed at a competitive disadvantage in the market, and lose out to rival companies which do exploit the programs. Like many other resorts, President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club is asking the government for visas to import 81 waiters and cooks in 2018 at a promised wage of $12.68 and $13.31 per hour.
In addition, illegal immigration, refugee programs, asylum claims, and legal immigration add more than 1 million people to the U.S. workforce each year, deflating wages for the 4 million Americans who graduate from schools and colleges each year.
These programs are designed to help business, investors, and federal tax-collectors, but do so by cutting Americans’ wages and training opportunities.
Wages have been rising slowly around the nation, partly because of Trump’s “Hire American” policy.
The initial beneficiaries have been new hires and employees in high-turnover jobs, such as Latino restaurant workers in Monterey, warehouse workers, Calif., resort workers in Hilton Head, construction workers, meatpackers, and Superbowl workers, and workers at small businesses. The benefits are also going to formerly sidelined workers, such as African-American bakers in Chicago, disabled people nationwide, high schoolers, and interns,
These factor help ensure that blue-collar workers are gaining more than white-collar workers, whose salary growth is lagging behind blue-collar wages, according to the Conference Board’s June 2018 estimate.
The Washington-imposed economic policy of economic growth via immigration shifts wealth from young people towards older people by flooding the market with cheap 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 prices, widens 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.