The National Association of Software and Service Companies, a trade body of Indian firms, recently sent a concerned letter to President Donald Trump. Amid record unemployment across the country, they demanded that the flow of visa workers upon which NASSCOM depends for low-paid labor remain undisturbed. In particular, the group asked the president to stay his hand from touching H-1B and L-1 visas.
The visa worker lobby has friends in high places. While nearly 40 million Americans were unemployed in May, Republicans in the House and Senate sent letters to the president, “urging the continued, uninterrupted operation” of a variety of visa worker programs. Trump ultimately suspended them through the end of the year.
Apart from Congress, organizations like NASSCOM have had a crucial ally in Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security and under secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy and Plans. Before assuming his role in the administration, Wolf was a paid lobbyist for NASSCOM.
Under Wolf, DHS and its agencies, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), seemed curiously deaf, dumb and blind to the exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic that originated abroad.
On March 16, after Trump barred many travelers from China, suspended all travel from Europe, and declared a public health emergency, Wolf’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would accelerate the processing of H-1B visas for U.S. and Indian companies. Three days later, DHS quietly changed its policy to enable the speedier approval of H-1B workers. The U.S. Department of Labor reported the next day that unemployment claims breached the 3 million mark. By March 27, to the disbelief of American workers and their advocates, USCIS began the process of importing 85,000 H-1B workers. (RELATED: ‘Demented’: Tucker Carlson Blasts Chad Wolf, Calls On Trump To End Visa Programs That Will Take American Jobs During Crisis)
“This is just an unspeakable action,” said Marie Larson, a co-founder of the American Workers Coalition, a non-partisan group that advocates for American workers whose jobs and wages are negatively affected by visa programs. “I don’t believe President Trump ordered this — the swamp went ahead with this.”
Wolf then used his discretionary powers to approve thousands of extra H-2B visas on April 1, for which Fox News host Tucker Carlson excoriated the DHS chief by name. According to Carlson, Wolf facilitated a “total of 100,000 workers coming to this country to take jobs during the single biggest unemployment crisis in a century. It’s demented.” Shortly after that segment aired, the agency halted its planned increase in H-2B guest worker visas. The flow of H-1B visas remained uninterrupted, however, and Wolf did not even mandate extra medical screenings for foreign workers.
Wolf not only dropped the ball with visa worker programs, but he also failed to close the US-Mexico border throughout the pandemic.
The government apprehended Chinese immigrants attempting to illegally enter the United States through the southern border in December 2019. By February 2020, Western media knew coronavirus was spreading through China, breaking out as early as November 2019 (and perhaps earlier). On April 6, 2020, USA Today reported numerous U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees working at the U.S.-Mexico border tested positive for COVID-19. But the border remained open. (RELATED: Thousands Continue To Cross US-Mexico Border Despite Travel Ban, Raising Fears Of More COVID-19 Cases)
Having failed to close the border during the pandemic, it seems that Wolf has no intention of securing it afterward.
Of nearly 2,000 miles of big, beautiful wall promised, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that funding for 576 miles has been identified so far. Yet only a little more than 200 miles of the new wall has been built, including primary walls and secondary walls that act as reinforcement systems. According to a Customs and Border Protection report obtained by journalists in May, just 16 miles of wall were built in places where fencing had not already existed.
DHS has also neglected to push for more funding to complete the project — an indicator of its unseriousness. Out of $11 billion set aside for building the wall, $6 billion has come from the Department of Defense, and only because Trump declared a state of emergency. What money is available has not been well-spent. In November 2019, Fisher Sand & Gravel, a North Dakota construction company, secured a $40 million contract to build a three-mile stretch of border wall on private land in South Texas. Construction halted after federal prosecutors sued Fisher and the project ran into a butterfly sanctuary. Earlier in 2020, Fisher was awarded a $7.6 million contract to build 800 more feet of wall near Yuma.
At the same time, Wolf’s DHS has lavished money on unconstitutional sanctuary cities — money that is in his power to withhold.
There are more sanctuary cities today than in 2016, and every one of them is non-compliant with federal recommendations, which means DHS can cut discretionary funding for programs. Instead, Wolf’s DHS showers people like New York City mayor Bill de Blasio in millions each year with no conditions. This is money that Wolf could pull and redirect to build the wall. Still, he appears as unserious about the wall and sanctuary cities as he does about the problem of illegal immigration itself.
In fact, former President Barack Obama’s DHS more aggressively pursued enforcement by comparison. Obama routinely deployed national guard troops to reinforce Customs and Border Patrol. During his first term, Obama’s administration removed 1.5 million individuals — whereas the Trump administration will remove fewer than 80,000 in the same timeframe. On the other hand, legal permanent residency approvals — including citizenship applications — reached a five-year high under the Trump administration in 2018.
Wolf’s tenure has been a joyride for organizations like NASSCOM, shady contractors living large on piles of taxpayer cash and cities that protect illegal immigrants from law enforcement. Those who voted for Trump in 2016 — and for an immigration system that puts Americans first — continue to be disappointed.
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