House Republicans and Democrats Urge Widening H-2B Program

Th H-2B visa program is a non-immigrant temporary worker program that permits the yearly importation of seasonal, non-agricultural workers. Each year it brings in tens of thousands of low-skilled foreign workers, most of whom come from Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala, South Africa, Philippines, in that order. In 2018, the State Department granted a total of 83,774 such visas, three-quarters of which went to Mexican nationals.

The seafood industry needs foreign workers, say the Congressmen.

On June 22, to deal with the forced unemployment of more than 20 million Americans, largely due to the Wuhan pandemic, President Trump issued an order halting the granting of further H-2B visas until the end of the year. As usual, the order came with numerous exemptions, permitting some foreign workers to enter. Now, a bipartisan group of Representatives have sent a letter to State Department chief Pompeo, urging him to widen those exemptions as they pertain to the food industry. The Congressmen write:

[T]he seafood industry has been particularly tested by the challenges in the food supply chain. This sector relies on seasonal H-2B workers to supplement its domestic workforce during the high season for processing. Due to the existing workers admissions cap in the H2B program, many small processors were facing significant workforce challenges even before the impact of the pandemic and this current additional restriction. Encouragingly, many of these small businesses still need workers, meaning they are still in business. Unfortunately, these employers cannot meet their labor needs with American workers despite record unemployment and significant recruitment and outreach efforts.

Two groups representing American workers have declared their opposition to the letter’s requests.

A spokesman for the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) union said:

The H-2B program exploits workers, leads to wage depression, and even has been used for human trafficking. During the current COVID and economic crisis, pushing for more H-2B guest worker visas at a time when there is record unemployment in the U.S., with some states’ unemployment rates as high as 15 percent or more, is absurd. There are plenty of workers already in the U.S. to do these jobs.

A spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) wrote that the letter “is nothing more than an attempt to enhance access to cheap foreign labor during a continuing economic crisis wrought by COVID-19.” The spokesman went on to say:

The August unemployment report noted that millions of Americans remain out of work, and particularly hard hit are those in every part of the food supply chain. Exempting thousands of H-2B guest workers at a time when millions of Americans remain out of work is wrong and misguided.

John Binder of Breitbart News cites a 2019 Center for Immigration Studies report that found that the H-2B visa program “has been widely used by businesses to drag down the wages of American workers in landscaping, conservation work, the meatpacking industry, the construction industry, and fishing jobs.”

The cheap labor lobby and its minions from both parties never give up. For the record, the letter has been signed so far by the following such minions: Andy Harris (R-MD), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Michael Conway (R-TX), Robert Wittman (R-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), and Filemon Vela (D-TX).

For more, see Breitbart News.

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