Once in a while the Department of Homeland Security does the right thing about foreign workers — making them harder to obtain by employers who, one hopes, will be forced to hire citizens instead.
This time the issue is whether, as USCIS charges, some of Guam's employers are using the temporary hiring provisions of the H-2B program for unskilled labor to fill year-round vacancies in their workforce. Sadly, this has been the pattern there for ages.
But this move, a potential benefit for U.S. workers, is taking place a full 4,000 miles west of Hawaii, when such actions should also be taking place on the Mainland.
I know a bit about Guam's labor market because I have been there on missions for the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, my employer of some 20 years ago. Contractors, often with fat military contracts, prefer docile non-U.S. citizen workers because they are cheap, expendable, and unlikely to join unions.
The U.S. government has gone along with the contractors and their allies for far too long. As is predictable, the employers are now suing the feds over this issue and the Democratic Delegate from Guam, Madeleine Bordallo, has expressed her support for the employers, as reported in a story in the Pacific Daily News.
The paper quotes this, from a USCIS document sent to an employer:
The regulations clearly require that an employer that seeks to employ H-2B workers must have a temporary need for a limited period of time and that will end in the definable future.
Will USCIS stick to its guns, or will it bow to the island's business interests?
With the typical inefficiency of the territorial government, its most recent unemployment data shows, as of March 2015, that the level of unemployment in the territory was running about a percentage point or two above that of the Mainland.
That is highly likely to be true today. There are plenty of people in Guam to do the H-2B-type work if the employers made an effort to find them, and to pay them decent wages.