By Joe Guzzardi
September 15, 2017
For months now, Americans have listened to President Donald Trump’s self-congratulatory bravado about how swimmingly his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order is doing. If only the swamp didn’t keep getting in President Trump’s way.
The swamp includes more than 35 employment-based visas that keep greasing the wheels for hundreds more foreign-born workers. Worse, deceitful employers successfully manage to manipulate visas that specifically exclude employment so they can game the immigration system and hire cheaper workers.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website specifically and unambiguously prohibits B-1 visa employment. Yet CBSN uncovered a huge, hidden B-1 workforce employed to help build parts of U.S. auto manufacturing plants that include BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Tesla and Volkswagen. CBSN reporters traveled thousands of miles to and from Eastern Europe to discover how employers carried out the visa fraud.
A safety manager overseeing a Vance, Alabama, Mercedes-Benz plant told CBSN that the site had Polish, Slovenian and Croatian workers on the job, but that he “didn’t understand why they would be there,” since plenty of Americans are available. The low-skilled jobs entailed fitting pipe, pouring concrete and installing equipment. On a single day, a CBSN producer filmed 15 vans driving foreign-born workers into a BMW factory where they earn about $10/hr., about $40/hr. less than a unionized American would make.
An American who, for more than a decade, has worked for the San Jose-based Local 104 sheet metal union told CBSN: “I’m angry. Angry. There’s lots of guys out there still looking for work in the U.S. And now we have how many thousands and thousands of East European workers working here, and they’re abused, too? Who lets this happen?” He added that “absolutely” Americans could do those jobs.
The answer to “Who lets this happen?” is the federal government. The feds have for years allowed employers to get off the hook. When questioned, employers claim that subcontractors and not corporate headquarters hire all their workers. Even though federal law states that employers have the ultimate responsibility to check their employees’ immigration status, they’re quick to say when questioned about possible irregularities, “Don’t look at me!”
Moreover, Congress has for the same countless years refused to pass mandatory E-Verify that would end I-9 falsification and ensure that only legally authorized workers are on the job. With E-Verify, the Eastern European workers and their cheap labor-addicted employers would be out of luck.
Adding to the disappointing discovery that overseas labor has displaced Americans and cost them a shot at a well-paid auto plant job is that the Mercedes-Benz site is located in Alabama, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ home state, and where Trump nominee and newly Senate confirmed United States Attorney Jay E. Town holds office.
Because the B-1 visa is valid for ten years, workers who hold them can remain employed and still be in status for up to a decade. Visa fraud is a serious federal violation that carries financial penalty, jail time or both. If President Trump and AG Sessions are serious about helping Americans workers and deterring illegal immigration, prosecutions against visa abusers are essential.