The DHS believes that there is a gap between the demands of businesses and the number of “qualified and willing U.S. workers,” and announced on Monday that they are looking into increasing the number of seasonal workers granted access into the United States.
Businesses have been actively pushing for an increase in H-2B program, arguing that there are not enough Americans that are willing to fulfill their temporary employment need. However, this move could adversely impact the unemployed of America, as noted by Roy Beck, President of NumbersUSA, an advocate for reduced immigration.
Beck argued, “Sec. Kelly’s decision to increase H-2B foreign workers threatens to reverse the trend of reports emerging around the country of employers working harder and raising pay to successfully recruit more unemployed Americans for lower-skilled jobs.”
“This is yet another example of the administration and Congress failing to keep the Trump campaign promise of putting American workers first,” He added. ‘
However, Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly disagrees. “Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary workers,” said Secretary John Kelly. “As a demonstration of the administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap.”
The number of H-2B visas had been capped for this year at 66,000. With Mar-a-Lago President Trump’s Florida resort looking to hire sixty-four workers under this program.
The decision faced further criticism as Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin issued a statement, “A growing body of evidence shows that our increasing reliance on the H-2B visa program hurts wages for American workers.”
Since, the DHS’s announcement came during the government’s as “Made in America Week,” the DHS’s announcement is garnering a lot of attention – and criticism. However, one DHS official noted “We’re talking about American businesses that are at risk of suffering irreparable harm if they don’t get additional H-2B workers,” he said. “This does help with American businesses continuing to prosper.”
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies on the other hand argued, that instead of “propping up unsustainable businesses by allowing them to become so dependent on foreign workers,” the Trump administration should consider providing incentives that promote employers to hire the “hundreds of thousands” of Americans that are looking for entry-level work.
Interestingly enough, opposition to the DHS’s announcement has taken a bipartisan turn. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee released a statement in opposition. “This move by leadership and appropriators cedes portions of this authority to the executive branch without a public debate,” Grassley and Feinstein said. “We understand the needs of employers who rely on seasonal H-2B workers if the American workforce can’t meet the demand, but we are also aware of the potential side effects of flooding the labor force with more temporary foreign workers, including depressed wages for all workers in seasonal jobs.”
The DHS had limited the number of immigrant workers entering the United States to 15,000 while providing the DHS complete authority to raise this number if need be. “The increase represents a 45 percent bump from the number of H-2B visas normally issued for the second half of the fiscal year, said senior Homeland Security officials in a call with reporters” notes the Washington Post.
The DHS blamed Congress for delaying the decision being made about the hiring of seasonal workers and pushing it into summer and announced that they are “committed to protecting US workers and strengthening the integrity of the US immigration system.”