Senators Want US Job Protections Before Expanding Foreign Workforce

By Chris 0

A bipartisan group of senators, including Republican Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, have asked the federal government to ensure American jobs are protected before expanding the number of unskilled temporary foreign workers allowed into the US this year.

“It is essential that you carefully evaluate hiring and recruitment efforts to ensure that any proposed increase … does not disadvantage US workers,” the senators wrote.

At issue is the H-2B program, which allows American employers to bring up to 66,000 foreign workers into the US every year on short-term work visas. Part of an omnibus spending bill passed recently by Congress gave regulators the ability to issue additional visas above the cap restriction, which has raised concerns among advocates for US workers and those who feel the visa program can lead to the exploitation of foreign laborers.

“Such a determination should not be made lightly,” the senators wrote in the May 17 letter, which was also signed by senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia.

It was sent Wednesday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta.

The letter cites a BuzzFeed News investigation that raised questions about the visa program after finding that workers could be victims of financial exploitation, physical abuse, and even rape. The investigation showed “that the program condemns thousands of workers each year ‘to exploitation and mistreatment,’” the letter added.

Increasing reliance on the H-2B program, which is specifically for non-agricultural employment such as hotel work or seafood processing, the letter continues, could reduce wages, push American workers out of jobs, and discourage them from ever applying again.

One of the most prominent users of the H-2B program is President Donald Trump; Mar-a-Lago and other businesses controlled by his trust hire temporary workers as waiters and housekeepers. Most recently, The Trump National Golf Course in Westchester County won permission to hire up to eight foreign workers last month.

Last year, more than 150,000 workers came into the US each year under the H-2 program, which also includes the H-2A visa designed for agricultural jobs. That number has increased steadily in recent years, and supporters of the program, including employers and visa agencies that help them request and recruit foreign workers, have lobbied regulators and Congress to expand the program and limit growth in wage requirements for foreign workers.

Representatives for the departments of Labor or Homeland Security could no immediately be reached for comment.

Jessica Garrison is a senior investigative editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Jessica Garrison at jessica.garrison@buzzfeed.com.

Ken Bensinger is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. His secure PGP fingerprint is 97CC 6E32 10A2 23FE 4E84 98B4 9CFF 4214 9D26 8AA7

Contact Ken Bensinger at ken.bensinger@buzzfeed.com.

Jeremy Singer-Vine is the data editor for the BuzzFeed News investigative unit and is based in Washington, D.C. His secure PGP fingerprint is E2B0 63DB 0601 D634 1E9E F9AE 9F24 768F 9B4A EFB0

Contact Jeremy Singer-Vine at jeremy.singer-vine@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

[source BuzzFeed]