By Joe Guzzardi
October 27, 2017
The 20 million unemployed and under-employed American workers, some of them jobless for more than a year, need all the help they can get. Look to the negative 33,000 September Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report as evidence of how dire the new jobs creation crisis is. The labor participation rate is at or about a 40-year low, 63.1 percent.
But good news is on the way, albeit somewhat indirectly, for the struggling unemployed. The Trump administration announced that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will instruct its officers to scrutinize temporary employment-based visa renewal and extension applications with the same thoroughness that it applies in its initial review.
A major change: the adjudicators aren’t compelled to renew, and the burden of proof to qualify for an immigration benefit like employment rests, as it always has, with the petitioner. Previously, USCIS encouraged its personnel to rely heavily on the original decision to both grant the visa, and to renew it. The federal government issues temporary employment visas to dozens of categories of workers that include tech, intercompany transfers, professional athletes, foreign media, and NAFTA professionals.
The most commonly used visa, the H-1B, requires that no qualified U.S. workers who could fill the position are available, a condition that has been widely abused. In the most attention-grabbing of several 2015 national visa related scandals, Disney fired its American workers, then forced them to train their H-1B replacements, a clear violation of the visa’s restrictions.
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General said that the H-1B process is ripe for fraud, and accordingly USCIS promised to double its site visits to companies that sponsor the foreign-born visa holders. An estimated 660,000 H-1B visas are active, with only 3 percent of the sponsoring companies audited. The most egregious abuses found during audits included visas issued for non-existent jobs or contracting the visas out to third-party firms.
The U.S. is in the midst of a self-induced visa quagmire. The Immigration Act of 1990 created dozens of temporary, employment-based, non-immigrant visas including several in the H and EB investor category. The visas have helped to displace American workers, and when the holders don’t return home when their temporary period expires, the overseas employees become part of the illegal immigrant underground.
Overstays are a significant contributor to illegal immigration. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security admitted to Congress that almost none of the overstays is investigated. In 2015, only 2,500 overstays were deported, less than one percent of the total that could have been removed.
Despite spending multi-millions in an entry-exit pilot programs since 2004 when the 9/11 Commission recommended biometric screening of foreign visitors to ensure that they exit on a timely basis, 13 years later the system is still not active.
The time is overdue for a moratorium on employment-based visas. They serve corporate interests at the expense of American workers, and are an open invitation for foreign nationals to stay in the U.S. without legal status, and to remain undetected for years, if not indefinitely.