By Joe Guzzardi
July 19, 2017
This week, my email inbox included two contradictory messages. The first came from 1600 Daily, President Trump’s public relations bulletin that announced Made in America week during which the White House would host manufacturers from all 50 states.
President Trump said that when Americans buy local goods, the profits and revenues stay in the U.S. as do, “maybe most importantly of all, the jobs.” Great! I’m totally onboard. Americans want to see their fellow countrymen working and prospering.
But my second email advised that the Department of Homeland Security would issue an additional 15,000 H-2B cheap seasonal labor visas to foreign nationals, President Trump’s betrayal of vulnerable Americans workers, and a sellout of many who voted for him. Unemployment is double-digit among American teens, minorities and others who may need part-time employment to supplement their incomes.
Under the false narratives that American workers can’t be found and that without more visas bankruptcy is certain, employers at fisheries, landscaping companies, tourist destinations, swanky golf courses, country clubs and ski resorts will now hire low-paid foreign nationals. The industries lobbied hard to win a 45 percent increase in the total number of visas issued above the previous 33,000 cap.
DHS officials, who spoke under the cover of anonymity, added insult to injury. When questioned about how more visas could be consistent with President Trump’s much-touted America first pledge, the unnamed DHS representatives illogically said that when he made his decision to increase the visas Secretary John Kelly kept American interests at heart.
Some U.S. Senators brazenly confess that cheap labor, and not an American worker shortage, is behind the H-2B visa push. In 2015, former Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski and North Carolina Senator Richard Burr wrote in what they described as an “urgent” letter to then-Labor Secretary Tom Perez demanding that red tape delaying H-2B visa processing be immediately resolved. The senators’ reasoning, as they explained in their letter: “[T]o ensure that employers who rely on the H-2B program are not forced to pay artificially inflated wages [to Americans] that drive up costs to the point of putting them out of business.”
On the same day that DHS revealed its decision, the liberal Economic Policy Institute released a scathing report which concluded that, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, “scant evidence” exists of labor shortages and, therefore, more visas are unjustified.
With the season half over, some summer businesses had reached out to attract local employees. In tourist mecca Bar Harbor, Maine, employers held a job fair, and considered offering higher wages and flexible work hours. The 15,000 visas send the message that outreach to attract American applicants is no longer required; cheap labor is on the way.
Perhaps President Trump is okay with an expanded H-2B visa program because he had positive experiences with it on his Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida, golf courses. Trump: “You couldn’t get help in those hot, hot sections of Florida.”
But nearly 40 Florida colleges have men’s and women’s golf teams with an average of 10 players each per squad. According to President Trump then, from about 600 or so university golfers, none are willing to work on the prestigious Trump courses where they could make valuable professional contacts and earn great tip money. Pardon me for not believing.
By Joe Guzzardi