GOP Senators Call on Trump to Protect Guestworkers
By Preston Huennekens | FAIR Take | May 2020
On May 27, nine Republican Senators sent a letter to President Trump asking him to not place restrictions on guestworker programs. This comes after widespread calls from grassroots activists and other Republicans in the House and Senate to temporarily stop all guestworker programs while the country is reeling from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
American workers continue struggling under the weight of the coronavirus’s economic impacts. Over 33 million Americans are without work. Our country’s unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression. President Trump issued a proclamation banning some forms of permanent immigration to the U.S., but it did not address the millions of guestworkers employed in the United States on temporary, nonimmigrant visas. Following the proclamation, FAIR sent a letter to President Trump explaining the importance of ceasing guestworker programs during this crisis.
These Senators urged the President to do the very opposite. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) called on the president to resist calls to suspend guestworker programs. They ended their letter with a five-point demand, quoted below:
- No suspension on issuance of H-2B or H-2A visas.
- Exemptions for all employers operating in any essential critical infrastructure industry, as identified by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
- A provision permitting individual businesses to apply for an exemption to any restrictions, upon showing that the business is likely to experience irreparable harm (permanent and severe financial loss) if unable to employ the nonimmigrant worker in the United States.
- A requirement that the Department of Labor gather and regularly report on employment vacancies in industry sectors that utilize non-immigrant labor.
- A provision enabling the Administration to quickly lift restrictions in any industry sectors for which data indicate persistent vacancies and in any occupations for which data suggest either low unemployment or a consistent level of open jobs for advanced degree holders.
The Senators bill this as protecting certain blue-collar jobs in agriculture and landscaping, hence their focus on the H-2A and H-2B programs. But what they call for actually touches on white-collar jobs as well. The letter calls for “exemptions for all employers operating in any essential critical infrastructure industry.” They cite the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s definition of “critical worker,” which is the same used by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the HEROES Act amnesty. This broad definition could keep thousands of Americans out of work.
The White House has not announced whether they plan to suspend guestworkers during this crisis and defend American jobs. However, news outlets including Politico and the Wall Street Journal expect the administration to issue a new immigration proclamation covering guestworkers in the coming days.