Nine House Members, headed by Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), sent a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee for Homeland Security asking them to continue the increase of H-2B visas that was approved in the omnibus spending bill last year.
The H-2B visa is a non-agricultural guest-worker program for low-skilled foreign workers for temporary or seasonal work. The visas are most commonly requested by the hospitality, food service, and landscaping industries.
The omnibus spending bill, which was scored by NumbersUSA, quadrupled the number of H-2B visas for 2016. There is an annual cap of 66,000 for H-2B visas but the omnibus excluded any foreign workers who held an H-2B visa in the last 3 fiscal years from being counted against the cap. This quadrupled the potential number of H-2B visas from 66,000 to 264,000.
The nine House members and other lawmakers and businesses want to see this increase remain in place permanently. Employers like the H-2B program because visa holders are tied to the company, which prevents many from complaining or unionizing when mistreated. Last year Buzzfeed released an expose on the H-2B visa and how it replaces American workers and exploits foreign workers.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Senate’s Immigration and the National Interest subcommittee, spoke out against the letter saying, “It’s frustrating that any of the [lawmakers] would push this. The program does not need to be expanded. If anything, it needs to be constricted.”
William Samuel, AFL-CIO’s Director of Government Affairs, also wrote a letter last week asking Congress to keep all provisions about the H-2B visa out of the appropriation talks. “Thousands of our members work in industries that are top users of the H-2B seasonal worker program. Misuse of the H-2B program harms them by artificially depressing wages, transforming permanent work to temporary, driving down labor standards and contributing to unemployment in these industries,” he wrote.
According to research from the Center of Immigration Studies, there are 6.1 million Americans with a high school degree or less who want a full-time job, but can’t find one. It’s these Americans that have to compete directly with H-2B workers.
The other eight House members who signed on to Rep. Long’s letter include:
Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA)
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)
Read more on this story at Politico.com.