By Joe Guzzardi
July 14, 2017
President Trump promised to drain the D.C. swamp, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly once compared Capitol Hill’s deep state domestic politics to a cesspool.
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis provided President Trump and General Kelly with incontrovertible evidence that not only are their opinions spot on, they may be understated.
Tillis is an outspoken advocate for more H-2B visas which allow employers to import overseas workers, mostly in non-agricultural landscaping, hospitality and tourism occupations. H-2B visas have long been contentious because they make it harder for Americans, especially college students, to get seasonal or temporary jobs. In the most recent omnibus spending bill, Congress authorized 70,000 more visas in addition to the existing 66,000 annual cap, split equally at 33,000 each between summer and winter jobs.
Kelly has discretion on whether or not to authorize the 70,000. But Kelly has expressed personal reservations about the need for more foreign workers, and President Trump, his boss, campaigned and was elected on a hire American platform. In April, President Trump signed his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. But by definition, more visas mean fewer American workers.
Frustrated by the failure to get his way, and increasingly the target of cheap labor lobby ire, Tillis in a huff pulled a procedural rabbit out of his hat and delayed the nomination of an important administration appointee, Lee Cissna, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director. According to Senate rules, a single lawmaker can delay a vote on any nominee or pending legislation. That’s swamp, cesspool politics at its ugliest: an elected representative doing what’s in his best interest even though it hurts his constituents.
For decades, seasonal employers have cried wolf, insisting without evidence or justification that unless their businesses can import more cheap H-2B labor, they’ll face certain bankruptcy. The self-serving, contrived doom and gloom predictions have fooled Congress, but can’t withstand the slightest scrutiny. Last year, the liberal, pro-immigration, anti-Trump, fake news New York Times editorialized on the H-2B. The editorial concluded that employers’ worker shortage claims “don’t stand up.” The Times added that even if shortage allegations are valid, the H-2B isn’t the solution. The Government Accountability Office found that subservient H-2B workers are routinely abused and underpaid.
Another liberal-leaning organization, the Economic Policy Institute, delved deeply into H-2B visa flaws. Analyzing the landscaping industry, EPI found that unemployment among landscapers was twice the national average. American Community Survey data shows that more than 50 percent of Americans age 18-65 without a high school degree are detached from the labor force; prospects for high school graduates with no college also are poor. In other words, despite industry’s bogus pleas that they can’t find workers locally, the truth is that plenty of Americans are available, but none are sought.
Instead of offering higher wages, the proven solution to filling unfilled jobs, companies depend on their reliable co-conspirator in undermining American workers – the federal government. For now, instead of simply denying the extra 70,000 visas, DHS chose a cowardly delay tactic. DHS will allow a public comment process, the results of which will have little impact on DHS’ ultimate decision.
If President Trump is serious about hiring Americans, he’ll slash the dozens of employment-based visas, starting with the H-2B.