Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a joint statement yesterday afternoon critical of the H-2B visa increase that appropriators slipped into the omnibus spending bill. Congressional Leaders and Appropriators released the massive spending bill on Sunday night that will fund the government through the end of September. Congress is expected to vote on the bill later this week.
Sens. Grassley and Feinstein issued the following statement:
“The Constitution clearly provides that Congress shall determine the nation’s immigration policy, and the Senate places such policy squarely in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. This move by leadership and appropriators cedes portions of this authority to the Executive Branch without a public debate by the committee of jurisdiction for the policy.
“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 bottom line is that this issue deserves more thoughtful consideration. Appropriators should remove this provision and give the Judiciary Committee time to properly consider and debate this change to our nation’s immigration laws.”
Congressional Leaders and Appropriators inserted the provision after receive pressure from a number of lawmakers who wanted to include a provision that excluded returning workers from the H-2B visa cap as the Committee had done in 2016. The provision added doesn't exclude returning workers, but it does authorize DHS Secretary Mike Kelly to issue additional H-2B visas equal to the number of visas issued to returning workers in past years when the existing workers exemption was in place. The provision, if approved by Congress, would allow DHS to issue an additional 70,000 H-2B visas above and beyond the annual cap of 66,000.
The H-2B visa program is a low-skilled guest worker program that allows employers to import foreign workers for seasonal or temporary jobs. The landscaping, hospitality, and tourism industries rely on H-2B visas the most, but studies have shown that wages have been stagnant in those industries for a number of years.
Updated: Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 3:21pm EDT