How important is it to you to see rising wages and more opportunities for American workers?
Many Americans hear that the economy is booming, unemployment is at all-time low and that it’s an employee’s market. Our job market is the tightest it has been in decades.
So why would we ruin these gains by bringing in thousands of cheap guest workers?
Indeed, while we have all read about the crisis along the southern border, few appreciate the fact that guest worker admissions have increased by nearly 200,000 in just the past three years.
Invariably, the problem with immigration’s impacts on labor force growth lie in its unpredictability – tied as it often is to external upheavals and special interest pressures within.
Recently, we saw the process in action once more. With the reliability of Old Faithful, a group of 189 lawmakers sent a letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf demanding a massive increase of 64,716 less-skilled guest-workers. Through machinations in a recent spending bill, Congress gave the acting secretary the ability to arbitrarily raise the H-2B cap by thousands. This would bring the fiscal year H-2B (non-agriculture lower-skilled guest-worker) visa numbers up over 120,000. Note the cynical use of the word “temporary.” Sure. Of course.
This move would supplement the nearly two million nonimmigrant workers already in the U.S. labor force, not to mention the approximately 8 million illegal aliens occupying American jobs. The presence of some 10 million illegal and temporary workers still represents a significant drag on the employment and wage prospects for those who were hit hardest by the Great Recession, and by other phenomena such as globalization and automation.
Herein lies a blatant example of how backdoor manipulations of immigration flows impact all American workers through the slow process of added unfair competition.
Businesses that rely on H-2B workers would tell you that the economy is so hot that they cannot find workers. But the states with the most H-2B workers, such as Texas and Florida, have labor force participation rates lower than the national average. There are surely Americans in these states who, if given the opportunity, would take these jobs.
Politicians all extol the virtues of rising wages across the board. On the other hand, they tolerate and even promote immigration policies that suppress wage growth, harm low-skilled American workers and redistribute income in unfair ways.
If President Trump really wants to get re-elected, he will need to thread the needle between the insatiable demands of certain business lobbyists and the favorable optics of robust wage growth.
But he can’t do both.
President Trump and acting DHS Secretary Wolf should resist these kinds of unwise actions that have encouraged public resentment over off-book and poorly regulated borders.
Dan Stein is president of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).