Immigration Hawks to DHS: H-2B Expansion ‘Shows Contempt for Forgotten Americans’

by John Binder 31 May 2017

A pro-American employee organization is asking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly to not expand a visa program that outsources blue-collar jobs.

Last week, Kelly appeared to cave on the issue of H-2B visas, telling senators that he would “likely” supply the big business lobby with more low-skilled foreign guest workers, as they continue making unfounded claims about a “worker shortage,” Breitbart Texas reported.

The H-2B visa is for non-agricultural, low-skilled seasonal work, supplying resorts, hotels and the seafood and landscaping industry with thousands of cheap, foreign employees. Every year, 66,000 H-2B jobs are given and this year, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s 2017 budget gave Kelly the power to expand the number by up to 70,000 more.
NumbersUSA, which advocates for less immigration to increase wages and job opportunities for Americans, is requesting Kelly to stick to President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

NumbersUSA’s Vice President Anne Manetas wrote to Kelly:

On behalf of our 8 million activists across the nation, I am writing to express our concerns with the increase in H-2B visas for FY2017 authorized by Congress through the Omnibus appropriations bill last month. There is simply no evidence of a labor shortage, especially among the most vulnerable American workers, to necessitate this increase.

This action by Congress shows contempt for the forgotten Americans who suffered most during the recent recession — the very Americans President Trump pledged to protect on the campaign trail. Data from the American Community Survey for the first quarter of 2017 show that more than 50% of Americans of working age (18-65) without a high school degree are not in the labor force. The situation is only slightly better for those with no more than a high school degree. Further, the Economic Policy Institute reported that from 2004-2014, wages were stagnant or declining in all of the top 15 H-2B employment occupations. For example, in FY2014, landscaping companies were approved for more than 30,000 H-2 visas despite unemployment in landscaping being more than twice the national average. If there were truly a worker shortage, wages would have increased and more low-skilled Americans would be in the labor force.

Reports have also shown a history of abuse within the H-2B visa program. In FY2014, the Labor Department identified violations in 82% of the cases it investigated. And a recent study by the Government Accountability Office found a high frequency of complaints involving H-2B workers, including low pay, long hours, wrongful termination, hazardous working conditions, and verbal and physical abuse, among other things. H-2B employers take advantage of the weak oversight to keep labor costs down and profits high.

For the last few weeks, the big business lobby, along with pro-immigration groups, have been lobbying Kelly to expand the H-2B visa, as well as members of Congress.

As Breitbart Texas previously reported, stagnant wages coupled with an unemployment rate of more than 5 percent, counting unemployed Americans and those no longer looking for work, indicates the harm done by foreign guest worker programs like the H-2B visa.

Wages in the top 15 H-2B jobs in the U.S. have been stagnant or slightly decreased over the last decade, according to analysis by Economic Policy Institute (EPI).