Tom Cotton: DHS ‘Prioritizing Cheap Foreign Labor’ with H-2B Visa Hike

Construction workers could get a lot more work because of the carbon tax (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) says Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf is “prioritizing cheap foreign labor” with his announcement to bring more H-2B foreign visa workers to the United States to compete against working class Americans for jobs.

On Thursday, Wolf said DHS would allow American businesses to import an additional 35,000 H-2B foreign visa workers to fill U.S. jobs in the construction, fishing, meatpacking, restaurant, and hospitality industry.

Cotton said Wolf’s decision — which marks the third consecutive year that Trump’s DHS has increased the H-2B foreign visa workflow —  merely prioritizes “cheap foreign labor” over working class and blue-collar Americans.

“Raising the limit of H-2B visas means prioritizing cheap foreign labor over paying better wages for American workers to do the same jobs,” Cotton said. “We need true reform that supports American employment and wage growth over low-cost foreign labor.”

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.

In a January letter, Cotton, Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley, and Dick Durbin pleaded with Wolf not to increase the number of H-2B foreign visa workers:

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]

Meanwhile, Breitbart News published a full list of the 123 Republicans and the 66 Democrats in the House and Senate who urged DHS to allow American businesses to import more H-2B foreign visa workers. The list included Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Rand Paul (R-KY), as well as Representatives Dan Bishop (R-NC), Doug Collins (R-GA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Ken Buck (R-CO).

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.

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