U.S. Trades More H-2A Visas to Guatemala in Swap for Migration Crackdown

Guatemalan Farm Workers
U.S.JOE KLAMAR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The White House announced it is helping Guatemala get more H-2A farm worker visas amid growing efforts by pro-migration groups to break Guatemala’s new anti-migration deal with the United States.

The July 26 anti-migration deal spotlights how the White House’s top aides are using many levers of government to curb the migration wave through Central America.

The H-2A side deal will help the Guatemalan economy by allowing more Guatemalan workers to take seasonal agriculture jobs in the United States for up to ten months each year. U.S. officials are also offering roughly $200 million in financial aid to the Guatemalan government, which will be expected to process asylum claims by migrants who cross Guatemala on their way to the U.S. border.

Nearly all migrants who reach the U.S. southern border first go through Guatemala. The nation occupies the land bridge to South America, just south of Mexico.

The H-2A side deal was announced via Twitter:

The H-2A program provides seasonal labor to agriculture employers — but it also suppresses wages for Americans working in related areas.

The uncapped program is growing rapidly, in part, because voters oppose various proposals to amnesty illegals or raise the huge annual inflow of legal immigrants.

The program imported 165,000 temporary workers in 2016, and 242,000 in the year up to October 2018.

Farm employers complain about the costs of hiring H-2A workers but are quiet about the fact that H-2A workers are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.

The Department of Agriculture is drafting employer-friendly regulations which will expand the H-2A program. For example, the new rules will allow employers to hire uncapped H-2A for some forestry work now performed by some of the roughly 100,000 resident H-2B visa workers.

The related J-1 and H-2B seasonal worker programs have strong support from GOP politicians and local business groups, in part because they provide the extra labor needed to prevent wage-boosting bidding wars among employers. Those bidding wars could drive up wages for a large slice of Americans who work near the summertime population of roughly 450,000 H-2A, H-2B, and J-1 workers.

The White House’s offer of more visas to Guatemala is important because pro-migration groups in the United States and Guatemala are trying to torpedo the migration deal, which has the potential to shut down the cartel’s vast and lucrative labor-trafficking business into the United States.

The cartels’ huge business is expected to pump at least 400,000 workers into the U.S. economy in the 12 months up to October 2019. That is roughly equal to one extra worker for every ten Americans who turn 18, or enough bodies to fill 35,000 jobs per month. That rush of foreign labor is helping to keep average salary growth at just 3.2 percent.

The Washington Post reported August 1:

 Five days after signing a major new asylum agreement with the Guatemalan government, the acting U.S. homeland security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, arrived here this week to sell it to a skeptical public. While President Trump had wielded threats in a push to secure the deal, McAleenan came with carrots.

Under the broad outlines of the accord, the Trump administration plans to bounce a large number of asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador back to Guatemala, instead of processing their claims in overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts. Guatemala’s deeply unpopular government acquiesced to the pact last month after Trump said he would institute tariffs, fees and travel restrictions that could have sent the Central American country into ruin.

McAleenan arrived with a sunnier message, telling reporters, business leaders and prominent Guatemalans that the deal will transform the country’s relationship with the United States, bringing more work visas, investment and tens of millions of dollars in U.S. financial aid.

Kevin McAleenan, Trump’s acting secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, signed the U.S-Guatemalan deal in the Oval Office on July 26:

The migration deal “is going to be terrific for them and terrific for the United States. This landmark agreement will put the coyotes and the smugglers out of business … [and] will usher in a new era and investment and growth for Guatemala,” Trump said.

Pro-migration activists denounced the July 26 deal.

“Guatemala is not a safe country,” said a tweet from the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. “250k+ people fled since Oct. Good background here on climate crisis leading to this [New Yorker article]… It has the highest rate of femicide (the killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man & on account of her gender) in the world.”

“I guess the Guatemalan president said ‘screw the law’ too,” said a tweet from David Bier, an advocate at the business-funded pro-migration CATO Institute. “Even as the federal government fought to keep its asylum ban policy in place, it presented NO EVIDENCE to the court of the existence of an asylum system in Guatemala at all,” he added in another tweet.

The deal is a big win for Trump in the broader back-and-forth political struggle with the establishment of cheap labor politiciansjudgesinvestors, and activists throughout the United States. In recent weeks, Trump has pocketed some gains — a shift in public opinion in Mexico and new U.S. repatriation policies, for example  — and has taken losses, such as a California judge’s decision to block Trump’s reforms of asylum procedures.

Immigration Numbers:

Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or university. This total includes roughly 800,000 Americans who graduate with skilled degrees in business or health care, engineering or science, software or statistics.

But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants and refreshes a resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including approximately 1 million H-1B workers and spouses — plus roughly 500,000 blue-collar visa workers.

The government also prints out more than one million work permits for foreigners, tolerates about eight million illegal workers, and does not punish companies for employing the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants who sneak across the border or overstay their legal visas each year.

This policy of inflating the labor supply boosts economic growth for investors because it transfers wages to investors and ensures that employers do not have to compete for American workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.

This policy of flooding the market with cheap, foreign, white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor also shifts enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors, even as it also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, and hurts children’s schools and college educations.

The cheap-labor economic strategy also pushes Americans away from high-tech careers and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions.

The labor policy also moves business investment and wealth from the heartland to the coastal citiesexplodes rents and housing costsshrivels real estate values in the Midwest, and rewards investors for creating low-tech, labor-intensive workplaces.

“If there is a growing flood of foreign labor, the American middle class is no longer going to exist, and Republicans will not have a constituency,” said Hilarie Gamm, a co-cofounder of the American Workers Coalition.

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