Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, sent a letter to top Senate Appropriators in an effort to stop a bid by House and Senate Members to make the H-2B increase provision, that was passed in last year’s omnibus bill, permanent. Last year Congress passed the omnibus spending bill, which was scored by NumbersUSA, that quadrupled the number of H-2B visas for 2016 by excluding any foreign workers who held an H-2B visa in the last 3 fiscal years from being counted against the 66,000 cap. This allowed the potential number of H-2B visas to increase from 66,000 to 264,000.
“It is my understanding that certain members of the Senate seek to make this "returning worker" exemption permanent. Doing so would be a grave error,” wrote Sen. Sessions in his letter. “Fundamentally, a cap must be a cap. Not counting H-2B workers against congressionally defined caps is as misleading to the American people and it is detrimental to wages and job opportunities of American workers.”
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. Employers like the H-2B program because it provides cheap labor and visa holders are tied to the company, which prevents many from complaining or unionizing when mistreated.
Buzzfeed released a report last week that showed that in 2014 the Dept. of Labor identified violations in 82% of the H-2 visa cases it investigated, yet very few of the companies get debarred from the program. Between 2010 and 2014 the Dept. of Labor identified 1,000 companies that violated H-2 laws yet only debarred fewer than 150 of them. 12 of the companies were found to have stolen more than $100,000 from their foreign workers but only one was debarred from the H-2 visa programs.
H-2B visa workers also increases competition for low-skilled Americans and depress wages in these occupations. 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.
“Congress may not be able to flip a switch and correct all of the damage that has been inflicted on these hard-working men and women, but we can ensure that we do not inflict further harm upon them by adding to the labor force with cheap foreign labor,” Sen. Sessions wrote.
Sen. Sessions also pointed out that Speaker Ryan promised that the H-2B provision was temporary and after this temporary increase, “the provision expires.”
Read more on this story at Politico.
Updated: Mon, May 30th 2016 @ 3:05pm EDT