Congress’s Irish Lobby Tries Again to Create ‘Irish H-1B’ Program

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (2nd L), Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) (R) walk out of the U.S. Capitol after the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the Rayburn Room of U.S. Capitol March 12, 2020 …
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Ireland’s ethnic lobbies in Congress are trying to sneak a bill that would allow the Department of State to trade away several thousand upscale jobs per year that are needed by U.S. college graduates.

The giveaway bill would add to the job problems facing each wave of U.S. college graduates, who are already forced to compete against one million Indian graduate contract workers — plus graduates from many other countries — for decent jobs and careers.

The Irish bill, H.R. 2877, was passed by a few House members via an unrecorded voice vote on March 9. The push is led by Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who chairs the powerful tax-writing committee in the House.

The bill was passed shortly before Ireland’s exiting Taoiseach — or prime minister — briefly visited Washington, DC, for St. Patrick’s Day. The Taoiseach is exiting because his progressive party was rejected by voters after it spiked immigration, curbed wages, and boosted real estate prices. This pro-business policy gave sweeping victories to a far-left nationalist party, dubbed Sinn Féin, leaving the country with a caretaker Taoiseach while legislators try to form a new government.

Irish advocates tried to push a similar bill through the Senate in 2018 by the Unanimous Consent process, but it was quietly stopped by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Cotton acted despite the support for the bill by Mick Mulvaney, who recently served as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff.

The pending bill would expand the existing E-3 visa program. The program was created by President George W. Bush as he sought a trade treaty with Australia. The E-3 visa allows up to 10,500 Australian graduates to work in the United States for several years. Through his two terms, Bush pushed various cheap-labor plans, such as his “Any Willing Worker” to import more low-wage migrants.

Most of the annual quota of 10,500 E-3 visas is not used by Australians, so the Irish government wants Congress to let Irish graduates get the unused E-3 visas.

A 2020 report by the Department of State said it issued 5,807 E-3 visas in 2019 to Australians. If the Irish lobby’s law had been passed in 2018, U.S. companies would have been able to import an additional 5,693 college graduate workers in 2020 from Ireland and Europe. In comparison, the highly controversial H-1B program allows U.S. and foreign employers to import 100,000 college graduate workers each year.

Ireland’s government portrayed the 2018 bill as an uncontroversial swap, in which Ireland’s young graduates could work in the United States while older Americans would be allowed to spend their retirement and pensions in Ireland.

This year, advocates claim their jobs giveaway is a simple and uncontroversial bill.

“H.R. 2877 is a simple bill that reflects the continued friendship between Ireland in the United States,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND). “I urge my colleagues to support the bill.”

Advocates also say the bill would allow highly skilled Irish workers to fill job offers from U.S. employers — as if no Americans are ready to fill those jobs.

But the federal Labor Condition Application (LCA) process provides no protections for American graduates because it does not require companies to broadly advertise jobs and to hire Americans at market wages if they are able to do the job. In fact, Congress requires the Department of Labor to approve all business requests for foreign workers if the documents are properly filled out.

This loopholed LCA process has allowed companies to import one million Indian contract workers to displace at least one million American technology, engineering, business, and healthcare graduates. That massive inflow has suppressed graduates’ salaries, boosted Wall Street, redirected investment from the heartland to the coasts, and choked innovation in Silicon Valley.

In 2019, the House voted to reward more Indian graduates who agree to take jobs from American graduates. But that push has stalled in the Senate amid public opposition to the companion S.386 bill pushed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

Supporters of the E-3 bill say it received “unanimous” support in the House during 2019. However, it was voted through the House by a few members via an unrecorded voice vote — without any public debate over the giveaway of jobs needed by U.S. graduates.

The advocates for the revived bill also describe it as a “reciprocal” bill, as if American graduates would be allowed to work in Ireland under equal terms with the thousands of Irish graduates who would be allowed to work in the United States.

“I want to make sure that we emphasize this — this legislation does not change the requirements of current E-3 program recipients or increase the number of visas made available in broad strokes,” Neal said in a floor speech. “My bill will simply enable qualified Irish workers to annually access unused Australian E-3 visas from the previous fiscal year. Once passed, the Irish government is placed to adopt a reciprocal arrangement that would allow Americans to work in Ireland, under the same guidelines.”

But the Irish government is poorly placed to offer reciprocal jobs. It has not detailed what reciprocal concessions would be offered to American graduates, and Ireland’s government has very limited authority over visas because it is a province within the overall European government.

Moreover, Germans, French, and other Europeans who move into Irish universities receive the same legal rights as the Irish — and likely will be able to use the E-3 visas to take jobs from Americans. That additional loophole will convert the E-3 bill into a revenue generator for Irish universities, just like the huge Optional Practical Training (OPT) program is a revenue generator for American universities.

Also, the bill allows the Department of State to determine if the future Irish offer — however weak it might be — is good enough to count as “reciprocal.”

The bill says:

(a) In General.—Section 101(a)(15)(E)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(E)(iii)) is amended by inserting “or, on a basis of reciprocity as determined by the Secretary of State, a national of Ireland.”

The Department of State has little or no record of fighting to win overseas reciprocal provisions in the many visa worker programs that annually deliver several hundred thousand foreign blue-collar and white-collar workers in Americans’ workplaces.

There are also few — if any — reciprocal visa programs.

A reciprocal program would allow U.S. graduates to take jobs in foreign countries when foreign graduates take jobs in the United States. That arrangement would foster economic ties and cooperation between the two countries — and would not put downward pressure on wages in either country. U.S. business groups would likely oppose reciprocity because it would nudge up wages in the United States.

For example, the State Department’s scandal-plagued J-1 visa program annually imports 100,000 low-wage and low-tax seasonal workers to take jobs — and minimize pressure for wage hikes — at McDonald’s, Holiday Inn, Food Lion, Disney, and many other seasonal companies.

The J-1 program continues despite Trump’s Inauguration Day promise of a “Hire American” policy — and without reciprocal job programs from the countries that send workers via the J-1 program.

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