Politics
Workers clean salmon carcasses on a cleaning line at the Alitak Cannery in Alitak, Alaska July 30, 2008. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson) Workers clean salmon carcasses on a cleaning line at the Alitak Cannery in Alitak, Alaska July 30, 2008. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)  

Feds OK’d 10 Million Guest Workers Since 2000

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The federal government granted temporary work permits to roughly 10 million foreign workers from 2000 to 2013, effectively boosting the supply of new workers by roughly 20 percent per year.

Only 650,000 of the guest workers were hired for agricultural jobs, according to the Tuesday report by the Congressional Research Service. That’s only seven percent of the inflow.

But roughly 3.1 million university-trained foreigners got permits to work in the professional sector for up to 10 years, said the report, titled “Selected Statistics on Immigrant and non-Immigrant Admissions since 2000.”

The annual inflow of roughly 250,000 university-trained professionals creates a resident population of roughly one million foreign professionals who are competing for jobs in medicine, accounting, auditing, design, management, pharmacy, research and information-technology. The workers are hired by many famous universities and brand-name companies, including DeLoitte, CVS and Ernst & Young.

An additional 123,328 foreign university students were also given work-permits in 2013, the CRS reported. Those student work visas allow them to hold graduate-level or technical jobs for roughly two years, creating an extra population of roughly 250,000 college-trained workers.

This combined population of roughly 1.2 million professionals compete for jobs against the 800,000 Americans who graduate from college each year with business, medical or technical degrees. In 2012, U.S. college graduates comprised 19 percent of hourly workers, up from 13 percent in 2002, according to a March 2013 report in the Wall Street Journal.

The total number of visas for guest workers — including roughly 2.9 million visas for their spouses and children — added up to 12,521,545. Some of the spouses got work permits, and all of the children are eligible for taxpayer-funded education services.

Roughly one quarter of those guest-workers, or 4.1 million, were given J-1 visas that allow them to work in a wide variety of short-term jobs, including retail, tourist, resort and fish-processing jobs that used to be held by U.S. students. Those U.S. students include former Sen. Hillary Clinton, who worked at a fish-processing plant in Alaska after she graduated from college.

Another 884,000 foreigners were given permits for work in restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, and landscaping companies.

The 10 million guest-workers almost equaled the inflow of new immigrants, which totaled 13,435,726 from 2000 to 2013.

The inflow of new immigrants also adds roughly one foreign worker to the labor supply for every four Americans who turn 18.

That combined inflow added roughly one immigrant plus one guest-worker to the labor force for every four Americans who turned 18 during the period. The combined inflow of immigrants and guest-worker visas was 26 million over the 13 years, or two million per year.

The immigration bill passed by the Senate in June 2013 would roughly double the current inflow to four legal immigrants or guest workers for every four Americans who turn 18.

Economists say wages rise when there’s a “tight labor market” in which companies compete for good workers. But wages fall when workers must compete with each other for for relatively few jobs in a “loose labor market.” In fact, even White House economist Jason Furman admitted to an audience of fellow economists this year that a tight labor market reduces poverty.

In 2012, employees’ share of the nation’s annual income dropped to the lowest level in 63 years, while companies’ share climbed to an after-tax, 85-year record. The Senate’s immigration bill would further reduce employees’ share of the economy and increase investors’s share, according to a June report by the Congressional Budget Office.

President Barack Obama has also given work permits to 550,000 younger illegal immigrants, and his deputies have announced plans to give work-permits to roughly 100,000 more spouses of guest-workers.

Some GOP legislators — but few Democratic legislators — have opposed the large-scale inflow of foreign workers.

“Americans overall, and especially middle-class Americans, have been pleading with their political leaders to end the lawlessness in immigration, to create a policy that serves the national interest, and to protect them from excess labor flow that pulls down their wages and may cost them their jobs,” Sen. Jeff Sessions told The Daily Caller in early May.

“We owe all Americans the right and opportunity to rise and prosper, but recent immigrants and native-born Americans absolutely can find themselves unable to prosper or see their wages rise if the flow of workers into the country exceeds the ability of the economy to absorb them,” he said.

But more GOP leaders, GOP donors and the Chamber of Commerce have backed more use of lower-paid guest workers in the poultry industry, in the fast-food sector, in golf resorts, in professional sectors, in management consulting, and have even sought a perpetual supply of profit-boosting low-wage labor instead of U.S-made robots. The leaders include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Rep. Paul Ryan.

“We need a more open and faster way of allowing people to get permits to come here,” according to John Rowe, a former chairman and CEO of Exelon Corp., a huge Chicago-based power-generation company that operates nuclear reactors.

“A restaurant may want waiters and cooks, a hospital wants nurses and doctors, a university wants physicists, a business like Exelon needs more engineers,” Rowe told an interviewer on Chicago Tonight last February 2013.

When asked about the fate of unemployed Americans, Rowe was dismissive. “Most of these jobs [for immigrants] are in places where the existing unemployed either are unable to compete for them, or don’t want to compete for them,” he said.

“We need to find other ways to deal with that problem,” said Rowe, who is a large donor to the GOP and a member of the immigration task force at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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