Chris Chmielenski's picture


  by  Chris Chmielenski

The 116th Congress has officially adjourned, ending attempts by some lawmakers to undermine American workers and taxpayers.

But the massive federal spending and Covid relief package passed by Congress late last night was far from perfect.

Here's what is and isn't in the bill...

NO STIMULUS CHECKS FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS -- Included in the Covid relief bill is a $600 stimulus for U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who make less than $100,000 per year. Most illegal aliens are ineligible.

Over the summer, House Democrats passed the Heroes Act that would have required the government to send checks to anyone who filed a tax return in 2019, regardless of immigration status. They continued their push to issue checks to illegal aliens in this round of negotiations.

But the bill passed by Congress last night excludes nonresident aliens, blocking checks for most illegal aliens and nonimmigrant visa holders. It does, however, provide checks for mixed status households -- households that have at least one U.S. citizen dependent.

ATTEMPTS TO LIFT PER-COUNTRY CAPS DEAD FOR NOW -- Earlier this month, the Senate passed an amended version of H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act. The bill was passed by the House in 2019. H.R. 1044 would have lifted per-country caps for certain visa categories, among other things.

While the House-passed version had no numerical impact, it would have ensured that tech workers from India and China would receive a disproportionately high number of employment-based visas, having an adverse affect on American tech workers and their wages.

Since the Senate-passed version contained changes, the House would have had to agree to the Senate changes -- or -- the two chambers would have had to iron out the differences.

There was some threat that a compromise version of H.R. 1044 would make its way into yesterday's legislation, but it didn't, killing the proposal for another Congress.

H-2B INCREASES -- Unfortunately, the bill did contain a few bad provisions, including an increase in H-2B visas for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The spending bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to nearly double the number of H-2B visas used by landscaping, construction, and service employers to hire lower-skilled foreign workers to perform seasonal or temporary work.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, DHS authorized a 35,000 visa increase in 2020 under the same provision. But the authorization was rescinded after millions of American workers lost work and wages due to the pandemic. It's disappointing that Congress has once again sold out to the cheap labor lobby instead of standing up for American workers during a jobs recession.

DEFUNDING ICE -- Finally, the bill reduced funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by $431 million from 2020 levels. This reduction in funding will make American communities less safe as ICE will be forced to roll back efforts to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens.

The 117th Congress is scheduled to convene on January 3, 2021.

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Deputy Director for NumbersUSA

Updated: Tue, Jan 5th 2021 @ 10:35am EST

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