House Cuts Foreign Worker Expansions, Passes DHS Funding Bill
On Thursday, September 28, the House passed H.R. 4367, funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for Fiscal Year 2024. Final passage of the bill followed adoption of a FAIR-supported amendment to remove two damaging guest worker provisions, relating to the H-2A and H-2B visa programs, which would have dramatically expanded the programs and harmed American workers. Specifically, those provisions would have 1) removed the seasonal or temporary requirement from the H-2A program, allowing visa holders to work year-round, and 2) exempted “returning workers” from the annual H-2B visa cap.
The amendment removing those visa provisions, however, also granted the DHS Secretary discretionary authority to increase the H-2B visa cap after determining the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied. This latest push for more foreign workers comes as nearly 8 million illegal aliens have been apprehended at our borders since President Biden took office, and nearly all of those being released into the interior are granted work authorizations. FAIR will continue to urge leadership to strike this provision but will also push the Secretary not to use his discretion to import more unskilled workers, if the provision remains intact.
Outside the foreign worker provisions, the House DHS appropriations bill included investments in border security and interior enforcement, aiming to reverse Biden policies that have led to the border crisis and providing solutions to curb illegal immigration. But the House funding bill is unlikely to move forward quickly, as the Senate works to provide amendments or advances its own DHS bill.
FAIR has applauded the following provisions in the House bill:
- Provides over $2 billion for construction of a physical wall along the southwest border;
- Increases funding to support a record high of 22,000 Border Patrol agents;
- Restores funding for border security technology, including for towers, aerostats, counter drones and new innovative technology;
- Funds ICE’s ability to detain up to 41,500 aliens on a given day (up from 25,000) and provides over $3.5 billion for custody operations;
- Prohibits funding for the CBP One mobile application that is facilitating the entry of illegal aliens at the border;
- Instructs ICE to continue to utilize the 287(g) program to allow state and local law enforcement to help in enforcing our immigration laws;
- Requires the Secretary to prioritize detention and requires that aliens enrolled in Alternatives to Detention be monitored by GPS throughout the duration of their proceedings; and
- Prohibits the Administration from implementing a Biden rule to allow asylum officers to make final asylum determinations.
With the federal government facing a funding deadline on midnight this Saturday, the Senate and House are also expected to move forward with competing short-term spending bills. Those temporary spending agreements could be voted on as early as this weekend.
Funding for DHS and border security will continue to be debated in Congress over the coming weeks and months. As has been FAIR’s position from the beginning, any spending agreement must include measures to secure the border. FAIR will push for policy changes to reverse the border crisis and remains committed to making sure that H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, is included in any future spending agreement.
To view our toolkit and summaries of the appropriations bills, please visit here.