A bipartisan coalition of United States Senators is asking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf not to follow the path of former Secretaries Kirstjen Nielsen and Kevin McAleenan by allowing businesses to import more low-skilled foreign workers.
Republican and Democrat Senators Richard Blumenthal, Tom Cotton, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley, and Dick Durbin sent a letter to Wolf and Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to request that they not raise the cap of H-2B foreign workers allowed to be imported this year by businesses.
Every year, U.S. companies are allowed to import 66,000 low-skilled H-2B foreign workers to take blue-collar, non-agricultural jobs. For some time, the H-2B visa program has been used by businesses to bring in cheaper, foreign workers and has contributed to blue-collar Americans having their wages undercut.
The Senators write:
While we understand the needs of employers who legitimately rely on seasonal H-2B workers if American workers cannot meet the demand, we continue to have concerns about the harmful impact that the program has on both American workers and foreign guest workers. Studies have shown that the H-2B visa program leaves immigrant workers vulnerable to wage theft, abuse, and trafficking. [Emphasis added]
Because they are often at the mercy of their employers, H-2B workers may also be too scared to speak out against poor working conditions. They may also have difficulties accessing the justice system to protect themselves from employer retaliation if they do speak out. These realities of the H-2B program, as it operates today, incentivize unscrupulous employers to hire H-2B workers instead of American workers and create poor working conditions for immigrant workers and American workers alike. [Emphasis added]
Therefore … we do not believe that an increase in the number of H-2B visas is in the interests of either American workers or H-2B visa holders. [Emphasis added]
Last year, Nielsen and McAleenan each approved 30,000 additional H-2B foreign visa workers for businesses to bring to the U.S. to take blue-collar jobs — all of which Americans can be recruited to take.
Today, federal employment data reveal that there is no labor shortage of working and middle-class Americans who want a job. As of December 2019, there are more than 11 million Americans either unemployed, underemployed, or out of the workforce – all of whom want full-time employment.
The H-2B visa program has been widely used by businesses to drag down the wages of American workers in landscaping, conservation work, the meatpacking industry, the construction industry, and fishing jobs, a 2019 study from the Center for Immigration Studies finds.
When comparing the wages of H-2B foreign workers to the national wage average for each blue-collar industry, about 21 out of 25 of the industries offered lower wages to foreign workers than Americans.
In the construction industry, wage suppression is significant, with H-2B foreign workers being offered more than 20 percent less than their American counterparts. In the fishing industry, foreign workers were offered more than 30 percent less for their jobs than Americans in the field, and in the meatpacking industry, foreign workers got 23 percent less pay in wages than Americans.
Late last year, the Labor Department banned a South Dakota construction company from using the H-2B visa program after they discovered the employer was importing foreign workers in order to cut labor costs, then forcing those foreign workers to pay for their own housing, visa fees, and transportation costs — all of which are supposed to be covered by H-2B visa employers.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.