We are writing to express our concerns with the increase in H-2B visas for FY2017 authorized by Congress through the Omnibus appropriations bill last month. There is simply no evidence of a labor shortage, especially among the most vulnerable American workers, to necessitate this increase.
This action by Congress shows contempt for the forgotten Americans who suffered most during the recent recession — the very Americans President Trump pledged to protect on the campaign trail. Data from the American Community Survey for the first quarter of 2017 show that more than 50% of Americans of working age (18-65) without a high school degree are not in the labor force. The situation is only slightly better for those with no more than a high school degree. Further, the Economic Policy Institute reported that from 2004-2014, wages were stagnant or declining in all of the top 15 H-2B employment occupations. For example, in FY2014, landscaping companies were approved for more than 30,000 H-2 visas despite unemployment in landscaping being more than twice the national average. If there were truly a worker shortage, wages would have increased and more low-skilled Americans would be in the labor force.
Reports have also shown a history of abuse within the H-2B visa program. In FY2014, the Labor Department identified violations in 82% of the cases it investigated. And a recent study by the Government Accountability Office found a high frequency of complaints involving H-2B workers, including low pay, long hours, wrongful termination, hazardous working conditions, and verbal and physical abuse, among other things. H-2B employers take advantage of the weak oversight to keep labor costs down and profits high.
In his Joint Address to Congress, President Trump made it clear that his Administration would be different and put the forgotten American workers first. Increasing the number of H-2B visas only benefits the abusive employers who profit from cheap foreign labor at the expense of these forgotten Americans. I urge you to keep the President’s promise that every decision made on immigration will “be made to benefit American workers and American families” and decline the opportunity to expand the H-2B visa program.
Greg Raven, Apple Valley, CA