DHS Makes Life Easier for Itself, and for Employers of Tiny Groups of Aliens

By David North on January 19, 2016

Forgetting completely the old, and excellent, rule that tight labor markets are a worker's best friend, the Department of Homeland Security has just loosened the labor markets for several small groups of foreign workers.

Its press release said:

This final rule does not impose any additional costs on employers, workers or any governmental entity.

What it should have said is:

Although this involves substantial economic costs to resident workers (citizens and green card holders), this final rule does not impose any additional costs on exploitative employers, indentured foreign workers or any inefficient government entity.

Note the focus of the press release on the benefits to employers, rather than to resident workers. Also note the careful avoidance of the word alien or foreign as it touts the benefits for workers without telling us that they come from somewhere other than the United States. (As a former PR man for a government agency, I recognize the use of weasel words when I see it.)

Let's get to the substance of the new rule, as spelled out in detail in the January 15 Federal Register.

This is no casual issuance; my poor old HP printer ground out 47 pages of Federal Register copy before it sighed and stopped. I hate to think how much DHS executive and clerical time was devoted to these new regulations, and all to benefit small groups of employers hiring small groups of indentured alien workers.

Unless the reader is deep into visa trivia, the list of visas may mystify, but they are: H-1B1, E-3, CW-1, and EB-1. Briefly, they can be described as follows:

  • H-1B1 workers are H-1B-type (professional level) workers from Chile and Singapore, nations that send us very few such workers under trade treaties that created these categories. (There were 870 visas issued for both countries in 2014, according to the State Department.)

  • E-3 workers are similar nonimmigrant workers, but from Australia, another anomaly in the system. (There were 4,492 visas in 2014.)

  • CW-1 aliens are nonimmigrants located in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (hence CW) and may not use that status to come to the rest of the United States. (There were 2,112 visas in 2014, but there is a larger number in the islands with visas issued earlier.) Unlike the other categories, these are largely manual workers, clerks, and household servants.

  • EB-1 immigrant workers, a highly useful class of immigrants consisting of outstanding professors and researchers; there were about 7,000 of them admitted in 2012 and in 2013.

During my stint in the Office of Insular Affairs (Interior) I worked briefly in the CNMI. The CW-1s do most of the private sector and manual work in the islands; the indigenous population (all U.S. citizens) avoids working for any employer except the local government, which they dominate. As a result, the local citizens have a much lower rate of labor force participation than the nation as a whole, and there is a sharp ethnic distribution of income, with the CW-1s on the bottom. (This is the place where the then-governor, a dozen years ago, ruled that if you were a citizen so poor as to be on food stamps, you could not be rich enough to have alien household servants; apparently there were some citizens who had, until the ruling, both food stamps and alien servants.)

The 47 pages boil down to easier paperwork requirements for these favored workers and their equally favored employers. They also set in motion arrangements that will take care of DHS's slow issuance of work documents for these small populations.

Anything that makes it easier to use foreign workers, of course, makes it that much harder for citizens and green card holders to get jobs — but DHS does not think in those terms.