Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) requested in a letter addressed to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and DOL Secretary Alex Acosta that both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) provide a written report, explaining in detail their departments' decision to expand the H-2B program.
In the letter, the Senators said that Nielsen's decision last month to add an additional 15,000 H-2B guest worker visas to the 66,000 visas already issued this year will put both foreign and American workers alike "at risk."
"... [W]ithout proper management, the H-2B program can put all workers at risk. H-2B workers are particularly vulnerable to recruitment and workplace abuses, as well as human trafficking and debt bondage. H-2B workers who are brought to the United States lack access to justice and effective protections against retaliation and abuse.
"Moreover, studies show that wages for U.S. workers have stagnated, and there has been a significant 'long-term decline in the labor force participation rate' for U.S. workers in H-2B fields. In one recent study, employers using H-2B workers were found to undercut the wages of similarly employed U.S. workers by nearly twenty-five percent. In short, a large body of evidence suggests that increasing reliance on the H-2B program as currently structured reduces wages, pushes U.S. workers out of jobs, and may, in some cases, discourage them from ever applying again. Increases in the number of H-2B visas without strengthening worker protections and enforcement of labor and employment law will only exacerbate these problems."
In their closing statements, the senators called on the departments to help them "protect American workers."
Updated: Thu, Jun 21st 2018 @ 9:55am EDT