In the wake of a probable smuggled-on bomb causing the latest airplane disaster (over the Sinai), former CIA Director James Woolsey has pointed out the problem of using lightly screened foreign workers as baggage handlers at airports.
Further, it was noted by others that an airport contractor with the unfortunate initials ISS has hired Somali refugees to work on planes at the Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix.
One account stated:
"They used to be vetted," Woolsey, who served in President Bill Clinton's administration, told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" about the airport workers "Now, quite a few of them are foreign nationals who have just worker visas. They're treated like agricultural workers."
ISS turns out to be a Danish firm that handles airport maintenance around the world. The baggage handlers, if nonimmigrants, are likely to be in the H-2B program. Woolsey's reference to the screening of agricultural and non-agricultural alien workers is right on target, at least as far as the "screening" of H-2A farmworkers from the former British colonies in the Caribbean is concerned.
H-2A workers from Jamaica who are new to the program are "screened" by an unlikely group of security officials — members of the Jamaican Parliament. Through a by-now ancient arrangement, new H-2 farmworkers are nominated by Jamaican MPs as a sort of low-level patronage. They are never seen by a U.S. official prior to their arrival at an international airport in the United States. This is an arrangement that cries out for reform.
H-2Bs are screened, perhaps too casually, by consular officers prior to their arrival in the United States. Woolsey makes a good point that more care should be given to this process — or, as he apparently did not say to the press — there is no need given the extent of unemployment in the United States to import any airport workers at all.
The first of the two cited news accounts, while probably correctly quoting Woolsey, managed to insert a trifecta of errors in a single sentence:
That revealed award of contracts to ISS as the high bidder who relied heavily on employment of refugees under the H-1B program.
Usually it is the lowest bidder that gets the contract, and refugees are admitted through other channels than the H-1B program. While there have been plenty of abuses in the badly designed H-1B program, there are few suggestions that it is used for alien manual workers (among other things, the fees are high enough to discourage such an arrangement).