The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is halting efforts to bring more H-2B foreign visa workers to the United States to take nonagricultural jobs after mounting public opposition.
In March, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf announced his plan to bring an additional 35,000 H-2B foreign visa workers to the U.S. to take nonagricultural jobs in landscaping, construction, seafood processing, hotels and restaurants, and amusement parks.
On Thursday, DHS officials said they were halting the plan to bring in those additional 35,000 H-2B foreign visa workers “due to present economic circumstances” wherein 6.6 million Americans have now filed jobless claims in the midst of the Chinese coronavirus crisis.
A DHS spokesperson wrote in a statement:
To clear up various misreporting — DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice. Per the statute, H-2B allocations are set in consultation with [the Labor Department].
DHS is looking at additional measures to protect American workers now and when normal economic activity is able to resume in the future. In the meantime, the @StateDept has suspended routine visa services overseas. https://t.co/29lE40Jvgz
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) April 2, 2020
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 announcement is a major win for opponents of the plan to bring in additional foreign visa workers at a time of economic devastation.
Fox News’s Tucker Carlson said, ripping the plan in a segment on April 1:
That’s a total of 100,000 foreign workers coming to this country to take jobs during the single biggest unemployment crisis in a century. It’s demented … in a year where tens of millions of Americans could be looking for work, our government is importing more than 150,000 workers from abroad and that’s without counting thousands of H-2A agricultural workers who will be coming as well. The president needs to stop this from happening, and he can.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) praised the decision to halt adding more H-2B foreign visa workers to the American economy during the unemployment crisis:
As we work together to rebuild our economy, it is imperative that foreign labor is not prioritized over American job-seekers.
I commend the Secretaries for their pragmatic, “America First” decision. (2/2)
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 2, 2020
Even with the DHS decision, the State Department is moving forward with its plan to fast-track H-2A and H-2B foreign visa workers to take agricultural and nonagricultural jobs. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the memo last month that allows waivers for visa holders to more quickly bring foreign workers to the U.S.
As federal data shows, American farmers do not wholly rely on H-2A foreign visa workers to take agricultural jobs. H-2A foreign visa workers make up only about ten percent of the total U.S. crop farm workforce. Last year, U.S. farmers hired roughly 250,000 H-2A foreign visa workers.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.