As the U.S. faces a labor shortage and an inflation crisis, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill think they’ve found the answer: More immigration.
A group of 34 U.S. senators, 17 Republicans and 17 Democrats, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh urging the Biden administration to raise the cap for H-2B foreign visas.
“By taking action to release and process additional H-2B visas, seasonal businesses and U.S. workers across the country will avoid these harmful consequences and instead help contribute to the American economy,” the senators wrote.
Releasing the “maximum allowable number” of H-2B foreign visas as the senators’ request would largely affect blue collar workers, including construction workers, restaurant workers and hospitality workers.
These senators are not the first people to make the argument that more immigration is necessary to help American businesses get through tough economic times. The idea has been supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which says more workers will help stave off inflation. Nicole Narea wrote an op-ed for Vox late last year, arguing for more migration, and perpetuated the myth that there aren’t enough Americans willing to work blue collar jobs.
“Increasingly, Americans don’t want to do these jobs. Immigrants have already seized the opportunity to fill that void, especially in the industries seeing the largest increases in job postings amid the pandemic,” Narea wrote.
The senators and other advocates for more immigration argue that this relief is necessary as businesses continue to struggle in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government restrictions that resulted from it. Most Americans certainly have sympathy for businesses that have struggled to stay afloat the past two years and are now in a further bind because of a tight labor market and inflation. However, the answer to these problems is not more immigration, but less.
While businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions across the country, American workers have been hit just as hard. Tens of millions lost their jobs after the virus hit America’s shores, while many blue-collar workers continued to serve on the front lines to keep the economy going during the peak of the virus, when many in the professional class were staying at home.
The interests of workers have to be at the forefront of the pandemic recovery, because they were the ones who kept our economy and country going during the height of the pandemic. Working class Americans are also the ones most likely to be hit hardest by the rise of inflation, which is currently at a 40-year high in the U.S.
Net wages are down across the country due to rising costs, and importing cheap, foreign labor to further drive down wages at this time would be almost unconscionable. We know that the H-2B program has the effect of driving down wages for Americans in blue-collar professions by allowing employers to hire foreign workers for low wages instead of paying Americans more. While this would be convenient for corporations, it would have a devastating impact on the livelihoods and economic power of American workers. Moving to import more cheap, foreign labor would also likely further sow distrust in the U.S. government and American institutions at a time when the American people are demanding a course correction on immigration.
A poll published by Gallup earlier this month found Americans increasingly discontent with high levels of immigration. It found that 58% of Americans are dissatisfied with current levels of immigration, and just nine percent of Americans want to increase the number of immigrants admitted into the U.S.
Combine this with polls showing that just a third of Americans support the Biden administration’s anti-borders agenda, and it becomes clear where most of the country stands on this issue. If politicians in Congress act against the interests of workers and the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, the public will be irate, and they will know exactly who to blame.
There are millions of unemployed Americans currently looking for work, more than enough to fill all of the jobs that remain open. The need to import more foreign workers is simply not there. Policymakers who advocate for increasing the number of H-2B visas are acting irresponsibly, and betraying the interests of working Americans.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.