The Trump administration has increased this year’s quota for foreign temporary workers allowed into the United States by 15,000 new visas. Some say the decision contradicts President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” agenda.
Allowing more foreign workers with H-2B visas for jobs in industries such as seasonal resorts, landscaping, seafood harvesting, will help American businesses avert the “irreparable harm” that can be caused by a shortage of such labor, said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
After consulting with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly found there were not enough qualified and willing American workers available to perform temporary nonagricultural work, the department said in a statement.
“As a demonstration of the administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap,” Kelly said.
This year’s limit for H-2B visas is 66,000. In May, Congress gave the Trump administration the authority to increase the number “upon determination that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2017 with United States workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor,” the bill said.
The decision threatens to reverse the trend of employers “raising pay to successfully recruit more unemployed Americans for lower-skilled jobs,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, a group that favors reduced immigration levels.
“This is yet another example of the administration and Congress failing to keep the Trump campaign promise of putting American workers first,” he said.
In April, Trump rolled out his “Hire American” plan where he pledged to reform the H-1B visa program, which provides long-period visas for technical and skilled employees.
“Right now, widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers from all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job, for, sometimes, less pay,” Trump said.
Last year, while on the campaign trail, Trump said he would “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program.”
However, when it comes to the H-2B visa program, Trump himself ‒ as a businessman ‒ has used it to hire temporary low-wage foreign workers at his golf resorts in Florida. “I’ve hired in Florida during the prime season ‒ you could not get help,” Trump said in 2015. “You needed them, or we just might as well close the doors, because you couldn’t get help in those hot, hot sections of Florida.”
The hospitality industry, along with fisheries and others sectors, have actively lobbied for more temporary foreign workers.
In May, when Congress authorized the increase, some members of Trump’s own party blasted the initiative.
“A lot of the arguments for this kind of program boil down to this: No American worker will do that job. That is a lie. It is a lie. There is no job that Americans will not do,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Oklahoma) in a speech on the Senate floor.
“If the wage is decent and the employer obeys the law, Americans will do the job. And if it’s not, they should pay higher wages. To say anything else is an insult to the work ethic of the American people who make this country run.”