President Donald Trump’s White House has released the text of his new “hire American” Executive Order, which orders a multi-agency reform of the nation’s many guest-worker programs to help raise Americans’ wages and salaries.
“To create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry into the United States of workers from abroad, including section 212(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(5)),” says the “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order.
The memo ordered officials to develop new rules and regulations for the many federal guest-worker programs which keep a population of up to 1.8 million visas workers in the United States. The order does not give a deadline for the process but says:
Sec. 5. Ensuring the Integrity of the Immigration System in Order to “Hire American.” (a) In order to advance the policy outlined in section 2(b) of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse.
(b) In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.
The White House also released a statement from Steve Miller, one of Trump’s senior advisors and one of the White House’s strongest advocates for labor-supply and immigration reform. “This historic act of leadership from President Trump makes unequivocally clear that this Administration will serve and protect the American worker – fighting for fair trade and immigration policies that promote rising wages and employment for our hardworking citizens,” said the statement attributed to Miller.
The new policy was praised by pro-American reformers., even though there’s a big gap between a Trump directive and actual day-to-day government policy amid intense industry pressure for cheaper labor.
“The president’s Executive Order is a shot in the arm for America’s struggling middle-class workers, and must now be followed up with legislation that makes permanent changes to our immigration system so it truly benefits America and its citizens,” said a statement from Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He continued:
Employers should be required to hire American workers who meet minimum job requirements and the foreign workers they do hire must be required to be paid a fair, market wage. We cannot achieve the goal of ‘hiring American’ while maintaining a policy that allows them to bypass Americans in favor of foreign guest workers.
GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate’s judiciary committee, praised the directive, saying:
The H-1B program was designed to fill gaps in America’s workforce with highly-skilled foreign workers, but as we’ve seen in recent years, the program has been abused and exploited at the expense of American workers and most-qualified foreign workers. We’ve seen companies use the program to fire American workers and replace them with lower-paid foreign counterparts. The visa lottery system makes this problem worse by rewarding visas randomly, instead of prioritizing foreign workers with greater experience, skill, and qualifications.
I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Durbin to address these problems, and I’ve expressed to President Trump the need to take action to restore the integrity in the H-1B Program. I’m grateful that President Trump has taken my suggestions to heart by taking steps today to protect American workers and preserve limited H-1B visas for truly qualified, high-skilled foreign workers.
Industry officials rolled with the punch. A statement from Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us cheap-lobby group praised the new directive but also asked for even more foreign workers.The statement said:
We are hopeful today’s announcement will do what FWD.us has long advocated; improve our high skilled immigration system. We should do so in a targeted manner by increasing the wage floor, treating super-dependent companies (50 employees and 50% or more of domestic workforce H-1Bs) differently and banning their ability to do third-party placement. Highly-skilled immigrants create new American jobs, raise wages for native-born workers, and contribute enormously to growing our economy. Finally, congress should expand the number of H-1B visas offered while reforming the system to protect American workers.
Read the directive here.
The annual inflow of foreign contract workers is huge, adding up to roughly 1 million short-term or long-term workers, either in white-collar or blue-collar jobs. The imported contract workers are not immigrants, not citizens, nor green card holders, but are temporary workers slated to return home after several years. Generally, employers do not have to interview Americans before hiring foreigners for the U.S.-based jobs.
Many of the contract workers stay for several or more years, ensuring the resident population of white-collar and blue-collar contract workers is much larger than the annual inflow and may reach a resident population of 1.8 million. The left-wing Economic Policy Institute pegs the resident population at 1.4 million.
Many blue-collar workers stay for just one season, filling jobs as landscapers or beach workers, waiters and foresters, fish processors and farm workers. These blue-collar temp programs get a lot of criticism, partly because some employers cheat their foreign workers, but they are supported by many local politicians who are trying to help donors and influential business leaders. This seasonal inflow has sharply reduced the number of Americans teenagers working during the summer.
Most of the white-collar workers stay for several or more years, ensuring the resident population of white-collar contract workers is must larger than the annual inflow. For example, the annual inflow of H-1B white-collar guest-workers is roughly 110,000, but the resident population is almost one million, according to a recent estimate by Goldman Sachs. The federal government releases little data on the many different guest-worker programs, but the available evidence says the national population of white-collar contract workers is up to 1.5 million. That population is roughly twice the population of 800,000 Americans who graduate from college with skilled degrees each year.
Several sites, including here and here, show numbers of H-1B outsourcing visas requested by companies and non-profits. The sites also show where the requested workers will work, their job titles and their supposed wages. For example, the sites show the number of visas for foreign pharmacists sought by CVS and other companies and the number of visas for architects and industrial designers sought by so-called “job shop” firms which outsource their imported workers to other U.S. companies.
The inflow of contract workers forces down wages paid to Americans and immigrants, partly because the inflow reduces wage pressure on blue-collar and white-collar employers. Moreover, many of the contract workers rationally and decently will take jobs are low wages because their employers can promise to eventually reward them with the massively valuable deferred bonus of a green card and then U.S. citizenship. Each year, companies request and receive 140,000 green cards for their white-collar employees and their families, further boosting the supply of professionals in the white-collar labor market.
Employers say they need the foreign workers because they can’t hire enough Americans for blue-collar jobs, even at wages of $12 per hour or higher.
But critics — and much evidence — say the programs are rife with corruption, including fake resumes, fraudulent visa applications, under-the-table payments, workplace and hiring discrimination against Americans, as well as false claims by lobbyists and corporates that too few Americans want to work at companies such as Goldman Sachs or Facebook or in the New York fashion industry.
A 2016 report by the National Academies of Science showed that cheap-labor gues-workers programs, plus the must large inflow of legal immigrants, annually transfers roughly $500 billion from American employees over to investors and employers.