Mayorkas’ H-2B Move Pushes Americans Farther Back in the Hiring Line
Doubling the ranks of foreign seasonal workers, the Biden administration has allotted 35,000 more H-2B unskilled labor visas. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the move addresses “a serious labor shortage,” but he made no mention of the depressing effect that cut-rate imported labor has on Americans’ wages or the fraud that comes with it.
In fact, the “serious labor shortage” is more hype than reality, as 5.9 million Americans remain unemployed and another 5.9 million are out of the labor market entirely, but all want full-time jobs. An additional 4 million Americans are underemployed, holding part-time jobs but wanting full-time work.
Robert Law, at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), says Mayorkas is “letting seasonal employers off the hook from recruiting Americans by offering better wages and working conditions. Instead, the federal government will subsidize bad business models or simply further enrich employers by giving them access to more cheap foreign workers than otherwise would be allowed.”
H-2B visas put foreign nationals to work as landscapers, housekeepers, roofers, horse stable hands, and even carnival workers, among others. Bowing to incessant lobbying by industry pressure groups, Congress has ceded authority to the administration, which is happy to raise visa caps as further its mass immigration agenda. This year’s H-2B increase is the largest administrative bump in history.
By law, H-2B employers are supposed to certify that they first sought U.S. workers at good wages and got no takers. But that hasn’t stopped fraud. In one example, a Maryland seafood and ice company hired foreigners for low-paying jobs but slotted them into positions that would otherwise have commanded higher salaries. That shuffle denied Americans the chance to take those better-paying jobs.
A recent CNBC report challenged Mayorkas’ alarmist claim of a labor crisis, noting that the rate of U.S. job openings has begun to slacken. “They appear to have leveled off, suggesting the labor market has cooled as more workers return to jobs and employer demand for labor fades,” the report stated.
As for pay – a barometer of labor supply and demand – less than half of U.S. workers saw their wage growth this spring keeping pace with inflation. That’s down from 58 percent a year ago. To those who argue that importing cheap foreign labor serves as a brake on inflation, a CIS study this month debunked the notion and reasonably asked whether reducing wages of the lowest-paid workers is sound public policy. A rhetorical question, to be sure.
FAIR has long advocated for stronger federal scrutiny of purported labor shortages, as well as enforcement at worksites that use H-2B and other labor visas. Unfortunately for Americans, Mayorkas & Co. are heading in the opposite direction, relegating U.S. workers to the back of the hiring line.