Trump’s Curbs on Visa-Workers Creates Summer Job Boom for Americans

NEW YORK - JUNE 28: Lifeguard Dennis Rodriguez, 17, keeps on eye on swimmers June 28, 2002 on the opening day of New York City's public pools. With a week of temperatures in the 90s, a large turnout arrived for the first swim of the summer. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty …
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Many young Americans are getting jobs and higher wages because President Donald Trump blocked the arrival of foreign J-1 visa workers for the 2021 summer season.

“We have had to really spend a lot of money to recruit higher-level [U.S. soccer] coaches to replace the Dutch coaches,” one operator of summer camps told US News for a June 21 article:

“… not a single Dutch coach has been able to obtain the necessary visa – called a J-1 – to be able to come and work this summer, says Bernard Hartog, the founder and managing director of Dutch Soccer School. Instead, Hartog has had to scramble in recent weeks to find qualified coaches in the U.S. and has needed to limit the number of players allowed at the camps.

Companies set up new programs to train Americans for jobs and careers that would otherwise have gone to foreign summer workers.  The Baltimore Sun reported May 27 that employers in Ocean City had gotten only 100 foreign workers out of the 4,000 J-01 workers expected for the year, forcing them to train locals, the paper said:

As of last Monday, 50 [American] workers had started in Ocean City in positions in security, hotel front desk, waitstaff, kitchen cook and helper, housekeeping and property maintenance. An additional 10 to 15 students are in training, and recruiting and hiring will continue through June. The goal is to expand the pilot into a permanent source of labor.

The [Carousel Group]  usually hires 175 to 200 workers from Eastern Europe but this summer has commitments so far from only 60. [American] College interns will help fill out the group’s marketing, accounting and social media needs.

Media reports show increasing recruitment and hiring of Americans for summer jobs. Under the headline, “The Luckiest Workers in America? Teenagers,” the New York Times reported May 30:

Roller-coaster operators and lemonade slingers at Kennywood amusement park, a Pittsburgh summer staple, won’t have to buy their own uniforms this year. Those with a high school diploma will also earn $13 as a starting wage — up from $9 last year — and new hires are receiving free season passes for themselves and their families.

The big pop in pay and perks for Kennywood’s seasonal work force, where nearly half of employees are under 18, echoes what is happening around the country as employers scramble to hire waiters, receptionists and other service workers to satisfy surging demand as the economy reopens. For American teenagers looking for work, this may be the best summer in years.

But the New York Times cannot credit Trump’s curbs on the J-1 and other visa workers. So it hid the role of the absent J-1 workers under the vague claim that “it has become hard to fill jobs with fewer workers coming from abroad.”

The J-1 program is “robbing American teenagers and young adults of the opportunity to work in the summers between schooling, which kids traditionally did,” said Preston Huennekens, government relations manager at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Despite claims from business, Americans “are willing to work … All you have to do is given them the opportunity and money to apply,” he told Breitbart News.

Company owners often describe the J-1 workers as eager foreigners seeking to enjoy a tour of American culture. The companies and their lobbyists also insist that the J-1s — and other visa workers — have no impact on Americans’ national job market and also create additional jobs for American workers and managers.

In reality, many J-1s work long hours for little pay, forcing down wages for Americans and boosting profits for business owners. The Fremont News-Messenger reported on May 14 about three workers from Thailand in Ohio jobs:

The three Thai college students working at Our Guest go by their nicknames-“Map” (Sukthai), “Parm” (Aurairat) and “Fah” (Luedara) … Map, Parm and Fah picked up second jobs working in the kitchen and bussing evenings at Twin Oast Brewing. They expect to work a combined 60-65 hours a week between the two Ottawa County jobs this summer.

The dollars earned in Ohio go a lot further in Thailand, enabling the three Thai workers to underbid Americans for Ohio jobs.

Ohio got roughly 3,300 J-1s in 2019 but only 172 in 2020. Nationally, 108,000 J-1s arrived in 2019, but only about 5,000 in 2020.

The 2021 number may trickle up because President Joe Biden’s deputies reopened the J-1 processing on March 31. Still, the number will be limited because many embassies have backlogs and delays — and because Fortune 500 companies want their visa workers first.

Fortune 500 companies want their outsourced army of H-1B and L-1 visa workers at the head of the processing lines, farm companies are also demanding their uncapped inflow of H-2A workers, and the landscaping and resort companies want their 88,000 H-2B workers.

The labor shortage and good wages may not last long, partly because Biden’s deputies are rushing poor migrants through the southern border and are trying to get more visa workers through the airports.

Curiously, Biden described his support for the long-standing and very popular goal of a tight labor market in a May 28 speech:

Rising wages aren’t a bug; they’re a feature.  We want to get — we want to get something economists call “full employment.”  Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, we want employees to compete with each other to attract wrk.  We want the — the companies to compete to attract workers.

[…]

Well, wait until you see what happens when employers have to compete for workers.  Companies like McDonald’s, Home Depot, Bank of America, and others — what do they have to do?  They have to raise wages to attract workers.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“Tight labor markets are good – they raise wages for workers and allow Americans to get into the workforce,” Huennekens said.  “We disguise cheap summer labor as a cultural program,” Huennekens added.

For the moment, Americans are gaining from the temporary cutoff of cheap foreign labor.

In New York, NBC News reported June 4:

In addition to advertising and asking alumni to come in for a couple weeks at a time to make up for domestic and international fallout, Camp Walden is also offering increased referral incentives to its current employees: $300 for bunk counselors and $500 for specialist roles, like lifeguarding.

“We’re plugging away every day and trying to find creative solutions on how to fill these remaining roles, ”[recruiting manager Robyn Spector] said.

In Wisconsin, “Door County typically employs 500 J1 students …  This year that number was cut nearly in half to 280,” forcing local firms to hire more Americans, said a June 21 report by NBC26:

“We are waiting for our college kids to sort of get out of college because that’s who we sort of filled in with for the [missing] J1 visa workers.” [Kit] Butz also says they were able to fill most of the worker shortage caps and says they are ready to take on a heavy tourist season.

In Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported May 21:

“Maine usually gets about 2,500 H-2B and 5,000 J-1 visa workers annually, but likely will get only half that number this year, Greg Dugal, director of government affairs at HospitalityMaine, said. The H-2B visas are granted to businesses that apply for them through a federal lottery.

Jean Ginn-Marvin, owner of the 109-room Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, has set up an internal workforce development program [for American workers] so she doesn’t have to deal with what she sees as a volatile H-2B visa situation. But even with that program, she would like to hire a few more people locally this year, the busiest in her 23 years at the resort.

“Until last week, the [Maine] amusement park thought it would have to close two days a week because it didn’t have enough staff,” the Portland Press Herald reported June 14:

Raising the starting wage to $14.15 an hour and offering a family pack of four season passes finally got them the people they need, but it meant raising ticket prices by $2 and closing two hours early.

In Montana, the Whitefish Mountain Resort is “offering an extra $2 per hour bonus for employees that would be paid out at the end of every month they worked,” the Whitefish Pilot reported June 4.

The lifeguard industry usually imports 10,000 summer lifeguards for pools and beach resorts. But in 2021, according to a June 10 report in New Hampshire’s Seacoastonline.com, a local lifeguarding group:

raised wages for lifeguards to $16 per hour, up $3 an hour from previous rates. It’s even offering a $100 bonus to employees who refer a friend to the job.

Needing between 100 to 120 lifeguards, Hehl said, the wage hike is in part due to New Hampshire’s state-wide tight labor pool, but it’s also to attract the best people.

Along the two coasts, “hotel operators are scrambling to make do with what resources they do have available,” Skift.com reported May 28:

That means [hotel maids and other] staffers accrue significant overtime pay and managers assist housekeeping staff strip rooms after a guest checks out. But owners aren’t giving up on recruiting more workers, either.

Signing bonuses for various positions like housekeeping and kitchen staff are increasingly normal. EOS offers sign-on bonuses of up to $500, and Mais said it’s not uncommon to see some hotel owners go as high as $2,000. Companies make sure to pay the bonuses in increments over several months to make sure workers stick around.

In the winter of 2020, the lack of J-1 workers also forced ski resorts to hire Americans.

Pro-migration groups have tried to minimize public recognition of the economic damage imposed by visa workers and migration on American families and say their media-magnified focus on migrants’ personal stories has shifted the polls in Biden’s favor.

The deep public opposition to labor migration is built on the widespread recognition that legal immigration, visa workers, and illegal migration undermine democratic self-government, fracture Americans’ society, move money away from Americans’ pocketbooks, and worsen living costs for American families.

Migration moves wealth from employees to employers, from families to investors, from young to old, from children to their parents, from homebuyers to investors, from technology to stoop labor, from red states to blue states, and from the central states to the coastal states such as New York.

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