Latest Trump H-2B Increase Again Betrays American Workers, says CIS

H-2B visas, granted to foreign workers to come to the US and perform temporary nonagricultural services or labor on a seasonal or intermittent basis, have reached an all-time high, causing the Center for Immigration Studies to claim that US President Donald Trump has “again betrayed American workers.”

In a new report issued by the CIS, that organization pointed out that in April 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 18837 — a directive to “Buy American and Hire American.”

The order signaled the president’s intent to defend the interests of American workers, one of his key campaign promises, the CIS continued.

“Some of his supporters were less-skilled and less-educated voters who shared his concerns that widespread immigration (and foreign guestworker programs) would shrink their job prospects. The executive order states that:

In order to create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States … the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall … propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede of revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system.

This has not happened. Instead of reforming the guestworker system, Trump has allowed it to flourish. In its latest action, the Department of Homeland Security announced today that it is raising the 2019 H-2B cap by 30,000. The additional visas are available to H-2B guestworkers who previously worked in the United States within the past three years.

The H-2B visa allows employers to hire foreign workers for non-agricultural jobs that do not require higher education, including landscaping, cleaning, hotels, etc. I’ve explained before how the H-2B program is a raw deal for Americans, and I highlight those points below:

* Data show that employers pay H-2B workers much less than their American counterparts.

* The H-2B program distorts the labor market and artificially props up inefficient companies, giving them no incentive to reform their hiring practices.

* H-2B prevents the neediest Americans (ex-convicts, recovering addicts, the homeless, high school dropouts, etc.) from securing meaningful employment that could transform their lives.

* The H-2B visa is unnecessary because a domestic replacement could do the same thing.

Despite these problems, the Trump administration has repeatedly increased the number of H-2B visas. There is a statutory annual cap of 66,000, but in 2017 and 2018, the DHS secretary permitted “temporary” one-time increases of 15,000 more guestworkers, as authorized by Congress.

Trump could have stopped this by ordering the secretary to do nothing, since Congress chose not to openly raise the cap, instead giving DHS the authority to do so, if it chose (ensuring that Congress avoided any political responsibility for the decision). In February 2019, Trump signed a spending bill that allows the DHS secretary to raise to H-2B cap to as high as 135,000. This would be an alarming increase that contradicts the president’s stated priorities.

Today’s decision increases the H-2B cap by “only” 30,000, rather than the full 67,000 Congress authorized, but this surge nonetheless increases the cap to 96,000. Not even under President Obama did H-2B visas rise to such high levels, as the table below shows:

Source: State Department, “Table XVI(B) – Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Classification”, Report of the Visa Office, 2004-2008, 2009-2013, 2014-2018, accessed March 27, 2019.

* Increase in cap; total figures not yet available, but visas have exceeded the cap since 2013.

President Trump continues to increase the number of H-2B guestworkers every time he has the opportunity. This is entirely his own administration’s fault. He could, at any time, direct Secretary Nielsen to not increase the cap.

This would help American workers and fulfill his promise to voters that he outlined in his original “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. His supporters did not vote for more guestworkers — they voted to return Americans to the workforce, the CIS report concluded.

According to the Federal Register, nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to apply for the H2B visa:

1. Andorra

2. Argentina

3. Australia

4. Austria

5. Barbados

6. Belgium

7. Brazil

8. Brunei

9. Bulgaria

10. Canada

11. Chile

12. Colombia

13. Costa Rica

14. Croatia

15. Czech Republic

16. Denmark

17. Dominican Republic

18. Ecuador

19. El Salvador

20. Ethiopia

21. Estonia

22. Fiji

23. Finland

24. France

25. Germany

26. Greece

27. Grenada

28. Guatemala

29. Honduras

30. Hungary

31. Iceland

32. Ireland

33. Israel

34. Italy

35. Jamaica

36. Japan

37. Kiribati

38. Latvia

39. Liechtenstein

40. Lithuania

41. Luxembourg

42. Macedonia

43. Madagascar

44. Malta

45. Mexico

46. Moldova

47. Monaco

48. Mongolia

49. Montenegro

50. Nauru

51. The Netherlands

52. Nicaragua

53. New Zealand

54. Norway

55. Panama

56. Papua New GuineaStart Printed Page 2648

57. Peru

58. The Philippines

59. Poland

60. Portugal

61. Romania

62. San Marino

63. Serbia

64. Singapore

65. Slovakia

66. Slovenia

67. Solomon Islands

68. South Africa

69. South Korea

70. Spain

71. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

72. Sweden

73. Switzerland

74. Taiwan

75. Thailand

76. Timor-Leste

77. Tonga

78. Turkey

79. Tuvalu

80. Ukraine

81. United Kingdom

82. Uruguay

83. Vanuatu

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