Greedy employers of unskilled foreign workers used in hotels and landscaping are seeking a legislative end-run to expand the number of H-2B workers without congressional hearings.
According to Politico, the employers are trying to increase the congressionally mandated ceiling of 66,000 H-2B workers a year through a rider on the continuing resolution, the legislative vehicle that guarantees funding of the U.S. government beyond April 28. (This would permit the change without hearings on the matter.)
H-2B workers do unskilled, non-agricultural labor.
Typically, the H-2B employers and their congressional allies are not doing anything so obvious as to actually seek to increase the ceiling on these usually exploited workers. No, they are defining the workers in question in such a way as to cause the admission of thousands, maybe tens of thousands more of these aliens — who, of course, displace U.S. workers — without actually admitting that they are doing so.
The magic trick in this context is to define away the admission of workers who have previously served in the program so that their entries are not counted against the ceiling. House Speaker Paul Ryan facilitated this sleight-of-hand in the 2015 appropriations bill, National Review reported at the time.
The new definition would not count the admissions of workers who served in the program in the previous three years.
Ironically, this increase can take place only among those workers who have already been exploited by the program, so the workers are more likely to return to the least exploitative of the employers, a nuance that the supporters of the program do not discuss. The Congressional Budget Office expects that no more than 8,000 workers will be involved, an estimate I find to be quite conservative.
The House appropriations bill for FY 2017 already includes language to meet the employers' goals; the Senate leadership usually tends to help employers, not resident workers, in such matters.
Meanwhile, according to Politico, Trump-owned or -branded organizations have requested at least 294 H-2B visas, since the start of the presidential campaign last year. This is consistent with Trump's defense of the H-2B program during the Republican primary debates.