By Joe Guzzardi
January 4, 2016
On his fifteen-day Oahu vacation, President Obama golfed, parasailed, dined at the tony fusion restaurant Hoku, and signed an unconstitutional executive action that could increase permanent work permit totals for foreign nationals to levels higher than Congress has approved. Even 4,700 miles away from the Oval Office, Obama found time to undermine American workers and circumvent Congress.
Striking on New Year’s Eve when he doubtlessly hoped that few would notice, the President signed a 181-page rule that would give work permits to foreign-born American university graduates, primarily in science, technology, engineering and math, the so called STEM fields, that will allow them to compete with American engineers. Obama’s executive action could expand the existing H-1B cap to a total well beyond the 65,000 maximum.
Obama’s work permits for illegal aliens and non-immigrant visa holders has been a trademark of his administration. In 2012, Obama sidestepped Congress and issued work permits to more than 750,000 deferred action for childhood arrivals’ applicants, DACA. From 2009 to 2015, Obama also allowed at least 250,000 Central American migrants into the United States to request asylum or refugee status, both of which come with work permission. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, during Obama’s first six White House years, his administration has handed out about 5.5 million work permits to residents not legally authorized to work including tourists, those denied asylum, illegal border crossers, stowaways, and fraudulent document holders.
In all, Obama’s sustained work permit largess meant that by year-end 2013, native-born Americans aged 16 to 65 with jobs had increased by a mere 700,000 to 113.5 million, and fewer-working-age Americans had jobs at the end of 2013 than had jobs in 2000. On the other hand, during the same period, employed foreign-born workers rose from 17.1 million in 2000, up to 22.4 million. That shift away from Americans meant that foreign-born people held one-in-six jobs at the end of 2013, compared to one-in-eight jobs in 2000, and this puts the roughly four million Americans who turn 18, graduate from high school and enter the labor market at a competitive disadvantage
The glut of foreign labor is a major contributor to wage stagnation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported mostly flat median weekly wages for full-time workers during 2013. Conditions for the average American worker could worsen if the Supreme Court approves Obama’s 2014 deferred action amnesty that would grant another 4 million work permits to parents of American citizens and legal permanent residents.
While Obama is responsible for the multimillion increase in employment-authorized immigrants, he benefited from a willing co-conspirator, the Republican-controlled Congress and most especially, its pro-immigration leadership which rejected a proposal to reduce the numbers of work documents available to overseas workers. House Speaker Paul Ryan easily persuaded Congress to pass his $1.1 trillion sell-out Omnibus bill that helped Obama advance his immigration agenda.
Obama’s executive action is hard to understand given the especially bad 2014 that American workers suffered through. Talented, long-times employees at Disney, Toys “R” Us, Southern California Edison were fired, and shamed into training their foreign-born replacements in order to secure their severance packages. The argument from those who advocate for more H-1B visas comes exclusively from employers who falsely claim a worker shortage, an allegation that the Disney, Toys “R” Us, and SCE firings exposed as cheap labor advocacy.
Americans want their president to govern with their best interests at heart. But with Obama’s administration, little evidence exists that citizens are the priority. The well-established pattern of doling out work permits above congressionally sanctioned limits shows no compassion for millions of unemployed Americans.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]