The first immigration bill introduced under Rep. Paul Ryan’s speakership Wednesday would bypass the annual 66,000 cap on H-2B work visas by allowing foreigners admitted in any of the three previous years to remain and not be subject to the cap.
Critics say it will lead to more competition for what are often middle-class American jobs and will eventually lead to more illegal immigrants as the foreign workers overstay their visas.
The H-2B is considered a “seasonal” work permit for lower-skilled workers such as cooks, construction workers, hospitality, theme park employment, maintenance, forestry, seafood processing, cruise ship employees and truck driving among many other jobs.
It differs from the H-1B, which is for skilled guest-workers and also is the subject of pending legislation sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who wants to triple the number issued to foreign workers each year.
The cap exemption on the H-2B expired in 2007. At the time, it doubled the number but it could as much as quadruple, legislative sources told WND. This is the same way the total number of existing H-1B visa workers got so much higher than the annual inflow.
The H-2B visa program, though referred to as a “seasonal” guest worker program it is not an agricultural guest worker program.
“These are explicitly non-farm jobs, often for lower-skilled work but also middle class jobs,” the source told WND. “Of course, because we don’t have a visa-tracking system and the president is not enforcing over-stay rules, it increases another avenue to add to the illegal population.”
The bill was introduced Wednesday by Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Andy Harris, R-Md., and Charles W. Boustany, Jr., R-La. It’s stated purpose is to “reform” the H-2B seasonal guest-worker program.
It is called the Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now (Season) Act or H.R. 3918.
The H-2B guest-worker program is used by U.S. businesses to hire foreign workers for temporary and seasonal work in a wide array of industries.
Chabot is chairman of the House Small Business Committee while Goodlatte chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
This is the first immigration bill being moved under Ryan’s speakership. There is a Senate companion from Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Sen. Cassidy.
“The Season Act provides much needed reforms to the H-2B guestworker program so that American employers have access to a reliable workforce during peak seasons,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “Additionally, the bill contains protections for American workers and taxpayers so that they are not adversely impacted by this seasonal guestworker program. I thank Chairman Chabot for his work on this important bill and look forward to moving the bill soon.”
“Many small businesses playing by the rules, including many employers in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia, rely heavily on seasonal employees with H-2B visas to support industries such as forestry and tourism,” he added. “Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has issued regulations that are overly burdensome for the small and seasonal businesses that play by the rules and use this guest-worker program to hire a legal workforce.”
But critics say Goodlatte and the GOP establishment are bending the facts, making it sound like it’s mainly struggling small businesses who will benefit from this bill, even as they attempt to appease their corporate backers in the tourism, forestry and hospitality industries. Companies like Walt Disney, which has used the guest worker visa to replace American employees.
In 1970, fewer than 1 in 21 U.S. residents were foreign-born. Today is it nearing 1 in 7, and will soon eclipse every historical watermark and keep rising. Meanwhile, the wage compression enabled by long-term low-skilled migration has helped employers keep wages down beneath 1973 levels.
One of the fastest-growing categories of immigration is from the Middle East, driven in part by refugee resettlement and worker-based visa programs.