Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) begged Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Thursday to import more low-skilled foreign workers to the United States to take U.S. jobs.
Every year, U.S. companies are allowed to import 66,000 low-skilled H-2B foreign workers to take blue-collar, non-agricultural jobs. The H-2B visa program is used by businesses to bring in cheaper foreign workers and has contributed to blue-collar Americans having their wages undercut.
In the midst of a funding battle wherein President Trump has demanded $5 billion to fund his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, Chabot asked Nielsen to import more foreign workers through the H-2B visa program for businesses in his district.
The exchange went as follows:
CHABOT: I have a theme park in the Warren County portion of my congressional district back in southwestern Ohio that struggled for a number of years to keep up with the seasonal demands, because amusement parks generally are open in the spring through fall and then they close over the winter. It’s a similar story that I’m sure you’ve heard from many other members about seasonal employers in their districts who are having trouble keeping up with seasonal demands. And they look to the H-2B program oftentimes. [Emphasis added]
Now, a lot of small businesses in my district, and districts all across the country, have also been adversely impacted by the lack of H-2B visas and the resulting lack of seasonal employees. [Emphasis added]
But what we have done in this Congress is to provide your agency with the discretion to issue more visas in the fiscal year ’18 omnibus bill as a temporary solution. And so in any event, your agency had determined that the number was I think about 5,000 additional that you provided. There are a lot of folks that think that ought to be higher. The Labor Department, for example, said it ought to be 10 times to 15,000. So where are you on that? And what can you do to get additional H-2B visas if they’re needed? And I would argue that they are. [Emphasis added]
NIELSEN: I did write a letter to members of Congress on this topic, as you know. I do think and encourage and ask that Congress pass authorizing language on this. We need a cap. When we went through this last year I asked every member of Congress that had a concern in his or her district: What are the numbers that you need? What are you hearing from businesses? What are the specific cases where the needs are not being met? [Emphasis added]
So what I respectfully request is that Congress put a number in law; that we address what “temporary” means, because there’s still some confusion around that. These were meant, as you say to be temporary and seasonal. And we’re happy to work with you on language. I’m not familiar with specific language of the SEASON Act, but I completely agree this is an area that we need to address. [Emphasis added]
The request from the GOP lawmaker to import more foreign workers comes as a government shutdown for a portion of DHS looms as the Senate Democrats refuse to support funding for a southern border wall.
In total, there are roughly 1.5 million foreign workers in U.S. college graduate jobs, plus at least 300,000 blue-collar or manual labor jobs. Meanwhile, there are five million Americans who are not in the labor force who want a job, with more than 500,000 Americans saying they are discouraged by their job prospects.
Every year, America’s working and middle class have their wages reduced by an inflow of more than 1.5 million mostly low-skilled foreign workers who are admitted to the country. This importation of illegal and legal foreign workers has left the country’s bottom line of workers with stagnant wages since the 1970s and forces them to compete with foreign workers for blue-collar jobs.