President Trump’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is approving an additional 30,000 foreign workers whom businesses can import to the United States on H-2B visas to take blue-collar American jobs.
Every year, U.S. companies are allowed to import 66,000 low-skilled H-2B foreign workers to take blue-collar, non-agricultural jobs. For some time, the H-2B visa program has been used by businesses to bring in cheaper, foreign workers and has contributed to blue-collar Americans having their wages undercut.
On Monday, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said he would approve an additional 30,000 H-2B foreign visa workers to be brought to the U.S. by businesses to take blue-collar, non-agricultural jobs. Foreign workers are only available for the extra visas so long as they can prove that they were previously granted an H-2B visa within the last three fiscal years.
For weeks, landscaping and grass-cutting companies have complained that there are not enough foreign workers to fill jobs and have lobbied DHS to approve more foreign visa workers.
NumbersUSA’s Rosemary Jenks said the approval of more foreign workers to take jobs in the U.S. economy would only continue wage stagnation for America’s blue-collar workers.
“The Trump economy is booming, but wages, particularly in H-2B occupations, have yet to catch up,” Jenks said. “As long as the administration keeps feeding employers desire for cheap foreign workers, wages for Americans in these industries will continue to stagnate. With this rule, DHS and DOL are changing the President’s executive order to ‘Buy American, Hire Foreign.’”
Federal employment data reveals there are at least about 12.1 million Americans who are unemployed and want a job, underemployed and want full-time work, or entirely out of the workforce but want to work. About 13 percent of the more than six million unemployed Americans are teenagers.
In a quietly approved section of the February 2019 budget signed by Trump, elected Republicans and Democrats gave DHS authority to approve up to nearly 70,000 additional H-2B foreign workers for businesses.
Former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen most recently approved 30,000 of those 69,320 H-2B foreign workers. McAleenan’s decision to approve another 30,000 H-2B foreign workers now leaves more than 9,000 foreign workers who can still be approved to take blue-collar U.S. jobs for the 2019 fiscal year.
McAleenan, like Nielsen, asked Congress to set the numerical limitation on the H-2B visa.
“The truth is that Congress is in the best position to establish the appropriate number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming U.S. workers,” McAleenan said in a statement. “Therefore, Congress – not DHS – should be responsible for determining whether the annual numerical limitations for H-2B workers set by Congress need to be modified and by how much, and for setting parameters to ensure that enough workers are available to meet employers’ temporary needs throughout the year.”
In a statement online, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) blasted DHS for approving more H-2B foreign workers:
I’m disappointed at the decision to import tens of thousands more low-skilled workers to take jobs that American workers want to do. This is bad news for hard-working Americans and more than 50k unemployed Arkansans. https://t.co/Y61mw3CKfS
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) May 6, 2019
To date, the Trump administration has approved additional H-2B foreign workers to enter the U.S. economy every year since taking office in 2017. McAleenan follows Nielsen and former DHS Secretary John Kelly in his approval of the extra foreign workers for business.
Last year, Cotton, along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), slammed DHS’s continuous approval of more H-2B foreign workers “without improving protections for American workers and visa holders and increasing enforcement of wage and workplace safety laws.”
The H-2B visa program has been widely used by businesses to drag down the wages of American workers in landscaping, conservation work, the meatpacking industry, the construction industry, and fishing jobs, the latest study from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) finds.
When comparing the wages of H-2B foreign workers to the national wage average for each blue-collar industry, about 21 out of 25 of the industries offered lower wages to foreign workers than Americans.
In the construction industry, wage suppression is significant, with H-2B foreign workers being offered more than 20 percent less than their American counterparts. In the fishing industry, foreign workers were offered more than 30 percent less for their jobs than Americans in the field, and in the meatpacking industry, foreign workers got 23 percent less pay in wages than Americans.
Every year, the U.S. admits about 1.2 million mostly low-skilled legal immigrants, many of whom immediately become low-wage competition for America’s working and middle class. CIS research has found that every one-percent increase in the immigrant composition of low-skilled U.S. occupations reduces wages by about 0.8 percent. Should 15 percent of low-skilled jobs be held by foreign-born workers, it would reduce the wages of native-born American workers by perhaps 12 percent.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.