While the Border Crisis Continues, Some in Congress Focus on Increasing Low-Skilled Worker Visas
During the midst of a border crisis, some Members of Congress are negotiating a deal to import more low-skilled foreign workers. FAIR has obtained draft language of the bill and is calling on Members to reconsider this approach, and, instead, focus on protecting the security and sovereignty of the country by dealing with the border crisis.
Specifically, there is bipartisan talk in the Senate about introducing a bill called “The Seasonal Employment Protection Act” to increase the number of H-2B seasonal worker visas. While proponents claim the bill would provide more “protections” to these foreign workers, it does so at the expense of American workers.
Here’s a partial breakdown of the draft legislation, which has not yet formally been introduced:
- It would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by creating a “fluctuating cap” that ties the annual number of H-2B visas to the average unemployment rate. It sets a floor of 70,000 visas and a ceiling of 125,000 visas per fiscal year, which is an increase from the 66,000 numerical limit in current law.
- It increases the number of foreign workers in the H-2B program by exempting certain employers from the annual limit. This is an often-used tactic to bring in more workers and get around the numerical cap. Such a provision renders the numerical cap useless. The draft bill would exempt the following types of foreign workers:
- those who are members of a union headquartered in the United States;
- those who work for an employer in a rural or seasonal location; and
- those who work for a certified employer (defined in the draft bill as businesses that have used the program and obtained labor certifications from the government in the preceding five years).
- It allows foreign workers – who are supposed to be temporary in nature – to adjust their status and receive legal permanent status (commonly known as a green card) and remain in the country permanently.
- It prohibits all construction-related employers from using the program – unless they have a collective bargaining agreement in place and the union supports the employer’s petition for workers. To be eligible, construction companies must also work in single-family residential construction.
- It requires employers to comply with various wage requirements (i.e. the Davis-Bacon Act) and then requires that any foreign worker receive the wage rate set forth by any existing collective bargaining agreement.
- It would require U.S. employers to pay additional fees for visa petitions, which would be used for a grant program to expand “know your rights” training for foreign workers.
- It would allow the H-2B foreign workers to be eligible for the T and U visas, other pathways to a green card susceptible to massive fraud and abuse, if the employer violated any labor law (such as those related to wages, hours, labor relations, family leave, occupational health and safety) and simply claim that they would suffer extreme hardship if deported. Further, it prohibits the government from removing any alien who has a pending T or U visa petition pending.
FAIR opposes increases in the visa cap for the H-2B program. As drafted, the language could double the number of H-2B workers in the U.S. the very first year. And with millions of illegal aliens arriving from all over the world – many of whom have received work permits under the Biden Administration – it defies logic to suggest that the U.S. needs more low-skilled workers at this time. In addition, businesses should not be allowed to use guest worker programs to supplant U.S. workers, yet more and more industries are incorporating programs like the H-2B program as part of their business model, essentially becoming dependent on them.
FAIR also opposes expanding the program to include new industries that are not seasonal or temporary in nature. Guest workers, by their nature, are supposed to fill a temporary need. However, the bill, as drafted, makes visa holders a year-round, permanent fixture in our workforce, displacing qualified and willing U.S. workers.
Finally, FAIR opposes using immigration policy as a means to advance other special interests. This includes expanding unions, building residential housing, and supplying big business with a never-ending stream of cheap labor. While individual opinions may vary on the merit of each of those goals, they should not be the driving force behind immigration policy. The primary driver should be what is in our national interest.
Given the severity of our border crisis, Congress must focus on passing meaningful policy changes to end the open-borders agenda of the Biden Administration. Congress should instead focus on reforming our asylum system and limiting the parole authority that Secretary Mayorkas has abused.