The latest theme park to open under the Trump administration might be called Cucktopia. Because under President Trump, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asked Congress to expand the H-2B guest worker program from about 66,000 workers to more than 135,000.
The Washington Times reported this week:
“We’ll likely increase the numbers for this year, perhaps not by the entire number I’m authorized,” Mr. Kelly said Thursday, tipping his hand somewhat.
Congress has authorized Kelly to exceed the highest number of visas ever issued in the program’s 30-year history. Under President Obama, the number of H-2B visas issued peaked at 94,304 in 2008, and settled in around 69,000 by 2015 (the numbers reported vary depending on the source used; I have cited Wikipedia figures, which cite the U.S. State Department).
Companies use H-2B guest workers to perform seasonal or temporary nonagricultural work that American workers are either unwilling or unavailable to do. The anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies notes how the guest worker program has been abused.
Use of the H-2B program has morphed from its original intent to help employers that need seasonal and/or temporary workers. The majority of the program’s current users are neither small nor seasonal employers, but rather mid- to large-sized companies and recruiters that petition for H-2Bs to work for 10 months out of the year, year after year.
While many H-2B jobs offer low wages of less than $10 per hour, a substantial number of H-2B visas go to more skilled workers who earn up to $40 per hour. Industries that are particularly heavy users of the H-2B program include landscaping, forestry, hotels and restaurants, amusement parks and leisure facilities, and seafood processors.
Unlike the H-1B skilled labor guest worker program, which Disney infamously used to replace several hundred IT workers, the H-2B is actually targeted for theme parks, seafood processors and landscapers. But Walt Disney World and Universal resorts are open year-round. Larger companies actually prefer H-2B workers to Americans and permanent residents, since foreign guest workers don’t have the ability to leave for greener pastures.
Therefore, American jobs are in fact supplanted by foreign workers, by the very companies pledging to bring jobs into the U.S.
And the Trump administration is bowing before business interests eager to make deals in their own favor.
“At this point right now, because we have no workers, we are turning down work, we are returning deposits and we are cutting business in half,” said one woman from a landscaping company in New Jersey.
Advocates for U.S. workers, though, said there’s no need to look outside the country to fill jobs, particularly since the 66,000 level was in place last year and businesses survived.
“If your business model is based on recruiting foreign workers above the level authorized in regular law, you probably should rethink your business model,” said Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager at NumbersUSA.
So much for Trump pandering to his base of America First, MAGA-hat-wearing, red-blooded American workers. If they’re not sharing lobster and shrimp appetizers with the president at high-priced exclusive golf clubs (like Fortune 500 CEOs can afford), they’re not really being heard.
Way to Make Cucktopia Great Again, Mr. President.