Even before he’s taken office, President-elect Donald Trump is off to a fast start to make good on campaign promises.
Among his recently announced ambitious proposals are the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, strict limits on former administration officials becoming lobbyists, and a mandate for the incoming labor secretary to vigorously pursue fraud in visa programs that displace American workers.
Foreign nationals who have received visas include babysitters, lifeguards, chambermaids, ski and tennis instructors, electricians, teachers, doctors and research assistants — all jobs Americans can and will do. Such visas continue to be issued unabated despite confirmed incidents that have, on occasion, led to sex trafficking, child abuse, workplace injuries and indentured labor practices.
Strictly speaking, most of the 50-plus available visas give the holder employment authorization. If Trump seeks to maximize job opportunities for Americans, he should eliminate many of the visas that long ago outlived their usefulness, assuming they ever had any.
The most infamous is the H-1B visa that created national headlines over the summer when Disney, Southern California Edison, Caterpillar, McDonalds, Toys“R”Us and others fired American technology specialists, and forced them to train their replacements.
But many other visas are routinely abused and, since they also include employment authorization, work counter to Americans’ best interests — the fiancée visa, the summer work program visa, the special talent visa, the religious visa, international transfer travel visas, international investor visas, the abused spousal visa and the diversity visa should be sharply reduced or eliminated.
Add to that list the millions of tourist visas issued annually; about 40 percent of the recipients never go home. Homeland Security Department records indicate that in fiscal year 2015, more than 500,000 short-term temporary visitors overstayed.
Moreover, under President Barack Obama, annual visa issuances in Brazil have doubled, and have a 95 percent approval rate, while issuances in China have quintupled at a 90 percent approval rate, which indicates that the review process in those two countries is basically nil.
Trump is shaking up the political landscape, and who he places in the State Department, which oversees visas, will be key. The new secretary must create more restrictive policies. In her analysis of the visa morass, Center for Immigration Studies policy director Jessica Vaughn found that under the Obama administration, the annual number of temporary visas issued rose by more than 5 million, an increase of 47 percent from 5.8 million issued in 2009 to 10.9 million in 2015.
At the same time, more countries were added to the Visa Waiver Program, which lets foreign nationals from select countries enter without a visa.
Assuming Trump authorizes a complete State Department overhaul, vetting must also be tightened to keep out terrorists like San Bernardino mass killer Tashfeen Malik, who entered on a fiancée visa.
Trump’s task of establishing a visa system that serves the public interest is formidable, but essential to protect American workers, and safeguard the nation.
— Joe Guzzardi is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.