Americans Protest As DHS John Kelly Flip-Flops, Backs H-2B Visa Expansion

Heather Scallion waits for a job at the Command Center temporary employment agency in Will

Pro-American immigration reformers are pushing back against the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to print more H-2B work permits so that more foreign contract workers can take more Americans’ jobs this fall and winter.

DHS officials, in response, say they will begin a formal rule-making process which may allow the public to protest the giveaway of job opportunities. “Undecided yet which path we’ll take but we will follow the rule-making process and publish a notice in the Federal Register,” said DHS spokesman David Lapan.

“NumbersUSA hopes that reports indicating that DHS Secretary Kelly will increase the number of H-2B visas for FY 2017 are untrue,” said a statement by Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for a pro-American reform group, NumbersUSA. “Such an increase would fly in the face of both President Trump’s campaign promise to ensure that immigration policies do not harm American workers, as well as his Hire American Executive Order,” she said.

Companies say they can’t find workers but “there is a glut of available workers to fill these jobs in the United States, which is reflected in high unemployment and long-term declines in wages in these sectors of the labor market,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

“Recent data from the American Community Survey shows that more than 50 percent of Americans of working age (18-65) without a high school degree are not in the labor force … [and] prospects for those with no more than a high school degree are only slightly better,” the statement said.

The FAIR statement also cited Trump’s campaign statement that: “the influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans – including immigrants themselves and their children – to earn a middle class wage.”

Stein added:

That statement is just as true now as it was when Donald Trump was on the campaign trail promising to be the champion of American workers who have been hit hard by mass immigration, unfavorable trade deals and globalization. There is nothing that compels President Trump to capitulate to the self-serving demands of business lobbyists. Our economy does not need a vast infusion of guest workers and the American workers who turned out in large numbers to disrupt the status quo certainly won’t benefit from it either.

The H-2B program imports roughly 100,000 people a year to work as landscapers, resort workers, restaurant workers and food processors. The annual inflow allows companies to reduce pay for American seasonal workers and also for year-round American workers, and it reduces pressure on politicians and school boards to improve vocational education.

In May, GOP leaders added a provision to the supplemental budget for 2017 allowing Kelly to import more H-2B workers. That unusual language allows GOP legislators to dodge public anger while providing a favor to lobbyists, by pushing Kelly into the long-stand dispute between cheap-labor business lobbyists and sidelined Trump supporters.

Kelly initially supported the H-2B expansion, but in early June, Kelly reversed his policy and opposed the H-2B expansion. “I know we already have large numbers [of contract workers] that come in and have been coming in over the years, but … in the current administration, this is all about American jobs versus people that come in and do the work,” Kelly told Sen. Heidi Heitkamp from Dakota.

Since then, Kelly has been besieged by business groups and their allies in the administration. His reversed himself again, and on June 22, agency spokesman David Lapan announced:

Secretary [John Kelly] has made a decision to assist a limited number of seasonal businesses that would be severely harmed if they do not receive temporary employment relief under the H2B program.

The number of additional H2B visas is being determined in coordination with DHS and the Department of Labor.  These visas may not be issued until late July, at the earliest, because of the lateness in passage of legislation granting the Secretary discretion to grant additional visas to businesses with truly seasonal needs, the need to coordinate with the Department of Labor to identify businesses truly at risk if they do not receive additional temporary workers, and the myriad steps required under federal rule-making before DHS can issue new visas.

The Secretary did not make this decision lightly and is exercising his authority in an effort to help businesses around the country at risk of failing.

He is concerned that Congress is passing the buck by not clearly legislating the H2B visa numbers, and expects that this one-time occurrence is an anomaly.

The announcement suggests that the agency will distribute the visas by August after officials complete a proper, multi-step “federal rule-making process.”

Industry officials, plus many legislators and some Senators — largely led by North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis — have been pushing hard for more visas to import additional cheap blue-collar workers.





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