31 Senators Call for More Foreign Workers to Replace Blue-Collar Americans

AP File Photo

Thirty-one Democratic and Republican Senators are asking the Department of Homeland Security to maximize the use of blue-collar outsourcing visas so U.S. companies can import more foreign workers instead of recruiting, training and paying unskilled U.S. workers.

The bipartisan request comes three months after the shocking November vote pressured GOP leaders to slash the H-2B visa program from a one-year high of 264,000 visas back down to the long-standing level of 66,000 visas.

The request to Department of Homeland Security John Kelly also comes as a claimed shortage of H-2B is prompted recruiters to find, hire, train and retain some of the millions of young underemployed men and women who could fill the many low-status seasonal jobs in landscaping, golf course maintenance, cleanup in restaurants, seafood processing, and hotel cleaning which are often allocated to H-2B contract-workers.

Recruitment consultants are helping employers hire alternative workers from American trade schools and from Puerto Rico. They are also warning employers to raise salaries and benefits for U.S. workers or else lose the workers to better-paying companies. “The first thing all employees want is a decent wage … Do you pay a competitive wage? This is probably the first place to start,” one employer recently urged her fellow landscaping employers.

On March 6, North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis announced a bipartisan Senate effort to increase the supply of H-2B visas, saying;

Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA) and a bipartisan group of 29 other senators sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, outlining concerns that the H-2B visa statutory cap will be reached soon. The Senators requested the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an audit to determine the number of unused visas during the first half of the fiscal year, and also requested that any unused visas be provided to eligible businesses that have been unable to secure an adequate number of workers due to the cap.

According to the statement,

In 2015, after previously announcing that the statutory cap had been reached, [the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency] determined that more than 5,000 unused visas were available. Soon thereafter, the agency began accepting applications from businesses still hoping to hire workers through the program. With that in mind, we respectfully request that your office conduct an immediate audit of the number of unused visas from the first half of the fiscal year and project the likely usage rate for the second half of the fiscal year … As with prior practice, any unused visas should be provided to eligible businesses that have been unable to secure an adequate number of workers due to the cap.

 The estimate of 5,000 unused visas is based on the number of approved-but-unused 2015 visas. According to the letter: 

We understand that when USCIS deems the cap to be reached, it accounts for a certain number of withdrawals, denials, and revocations. It is very important, however, that as soon as it has information on the actual number of visas issued, USCIS immediately makes any unused visas available to seasonal businesses. 

The political request to recycle 5,000 allocated-but-unused visas is a long fall from the industry’s successful push in 2015 to effectively quadruple the H-2B visa program from 66,000 visas to 274,000 visas. House Speaker Paul Ryan backed the expansion in December 2015. Growing public and media criticism prompted Ryan to withdrew his support in 2016, so allowing the program to drop back down to 66,000 visas per year level. 

The H-2B program is the blue-collar version of the H-1B visa outsourcing program, which allows a population of roughly 650,000 lower-wage foreign university graduates to take jobs sought by young American college grads. The H-1B program gets a lot of bad publicity, partly because it threatens the peers and children of influential middle-class professionals in the computer, academic, healthcare and business sectors, who also have ready access to sympathetic journalists. 

Thirty-one Senators signed the letter to outsource the extra jobs. They include 10 Democrats and 21 Republicans:

Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Barrasso (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Scott (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), James Lankford (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Bob Casey (D-PA).

The signers include Sen. Graham, who has a long history of aiding H-2B employers.

Tillis is also a long-standing supporter of cheap-labor visas. When serving as Speaker of the North Carolina House in 2013, he helped employers hire illegal immigrants by overriding a veto from GOP Gov. Pat McCrory. In 2017, Tillis is also pushing business-backed plans to increase the annual inflow of foreign contract-workers and to deliver an amnesty to at least 750,000 younger illegals. 

Business groups are still pushing for an amnesty for illegals, and for a constant large-scale inflow of foreign workers to minimize the cost of hired workers in the United States, even though political support for those goals has crashed since the November election.

Brave folks” are still willing to try, said Michele Stockwell, vice-president of public policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said at a March 2 meeting.

“We know most of the solutions, we have to figure out … how to silence the voices at either end of the political spectrum that are the reason we haven’t been successful in the past, and solve the problem,” Tillis told several business lobbyists at the March 2 meeting.

There is a “dark wall that we see now of [political] intransigence [and] your voice has brought some light,” former housing secretary Henry Cisneros told Tillis during a scripted conversation on March 2.

Tillis’ office did not respond to emails from Breitbart News. 

Companies that want more H-2B workers plan to lobby legislators on March 14. 

But without enough cheap foreign workers, employers are under growing pressure to raise wages and benefits for Americans. In January, Leslie Allebach, an employer in Palmyra Pa., offered some advice to her fellow employers, saying:

1. Would you be satisfied with the benefits your company provides? What benefits would you like to have in place if you were your employee? Of course, the first thing all employees want is a decent wage. They have bills and mortgages to pay and they’d sure like a little extra with which to enjoy life after these payments are made. Do you pay a competitive wage? This is probably the first place to start.

2. Make sure you have an IRA and a good plan for health insurance in place. If these two things are not available for faithful employees, it is time to get busy. These are extremely important to most employees and so they should be. To not offer these is to automatically subject yourself to losing your best employees and may even keep you from having potential employees consider your company in the first place…

3. All employees should be offered some vacation time. Your employees have families and personal lives. Sometimes we are tempted to think that a winter lay-off is enough vacation for them (for those of us who close down over winter), but this provides them no time for summer vacations or fall hunting. In our company, we ask our employees to avoid vacation days from March 15 through May 31.

Executives in the landscaping industry admit the public opposes the use of guest-workers. 

Paul Mendelsohn, vice president government relations, National Association of Landscape Professionals, says President Donald Trump – who has hired guest workers through the H-2B program at his hotels and golf courses – and a new Congress could mean major changes either way on the program.

“We received reassurances from Congress that they understand the importance (of H-2B),” he says. “Partially, as a result of the focus on immigration and anti-immigration that were heard during the election, there’s a lot of hesitancy by members of Congress to publicly take a position that’s related to immigration.

“Even though publicly they’ll say it’s workforce, not immigration, their constituents see it otherwise.”

The federal government annually imports two new temporary or permanent foreign workers for every four young Americans who turn 18, which helps push millions of working-age American men and women out of the formal workforce. The flood of foreign labor also pushes many marginal U.S. workers toward social alienation, drug dependence, and death, and annually shifts roughly $500 billion from employees’ wallets to employers’ income. In November, Donald Trump won the presidency with a campaign to “Buy American, Hire American.”

To read more about the H-2B program, click here.


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