STEIN: DHS Funding Bill Would Displace Even More American Workers

(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Dan Stein Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
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In an alternate universe known as Capitol Hill, the 8.9 million largely low- and unskilled illegal migrants who have poured across our borders since President Biden took office is still not enough to satisfy the insatiable demands of the U.S. business lobby for low-wage labor.

As legislators race to approve some funding mechanism to keep our federal government operating past 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, they have somehow managed to find the time and the chutzpah to champion provisions that will massively expand the number of temporary low-skilled guest workers that will be available to business interests. 

A provision inserted to benefit non-agricultural employers would blow the lid off the 66,000 annual cap on H-2B guest workers by exempting returning visa holders from counting against that limit, as though they won’t have the same harmful impact on similarly skilled American workers if they’ve been here before. The powerful agriculture lobby, which carries clout among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, is also poised to get some goodies. Agricultural employers already have access to an unlimited number of H-2A guest workers, and yet – somehow – they are demanding more. And, in a rare instance of bipartisanship, Congress seems prepared to give it to them.

First off, they want an end to the temporary or seasonal nature of the H-2A program. The intent behind the program was to ensure that farmers had access to workers to harvest time-sensitive crops when they become ripe. Produce doesn’t wait around. Sectors of the agricultural industry, such as dairy and sheepherding, that are neither seasonal nor temporary have not had access to the H-2A program. Livestock need to be tended to all year long and in a fixed location, making those jobs more attractive to U.S. workers as long as the wages and working conditions are competitive. Paying living wages, much less competitive ones, is something all sectors of the agricultural industry have resisted, and they’re prepared to flex their political muscle to make sure they never will.

Expanding access to foreign guest workers – particularly lesser-skilled ones – would be harmful to struggling American workers even in ordinary times. But these are anything but ordinary times. Record numbers of illegal aliens have been pouring across our borders, with no let-up in sight. The vast majority of these people are economic migrants posing as asylum seekers. 

Even people with patently bogus asylum claims become eligible to receive work authorization within 180 days. And under pressure from open-borders advocates and some local political leaders, there is increasing pressure to expedite the issuance of work authorization even further. The Biden administration seems more than happy to comply. On Sept. 20, DHS re-designated Venezuelans for Temporary Protect Status, making them immediately eligible for work permits. Advocates for other nationality groups that figure prominently among the surge of illegal aliens entering the country are demanding similar consideration, and will likely get it.

In addition to the migrants flooding across the border, the Biden administration is also been massively abusing its authority to allow otherwise inadmissible foreign nationals to enter under “humanitarian parole.” As of July, about 1.4 million people had gained entry to the United States via parole since Biden took office, under a program that requires that applications be considered on a case-by-case basis. Parolees receive immediate authorization to work in the United States.

If all of these new job-seekers who have entered the country recently and been granted work authorization (or will be soon) were not enough to meet the labor demands of just about every sector of the economy, there is also an ample supply of domestic labor that can be tapped. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that about 1.2 million U.S.-born workers lost jobs in July and August, adding to the already enormous pool of available workers.

With a border that is raging out of control and the prospect of a government shutdown looming, finding ways to slip large expansions of foreign labor programs into a spending bill is the last thing Congress should be working on.

Blowing new holes in our already abused guest worker programs while the Biden administration continues to lay waste to border and immigration enforcement will only compound a crisis that threatens the stability of American communities and the economic security of American workers.

Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.