USCIS Provides More Data on the H-2B Program, which Provides Alien Workers at Bargain Rates

By David North on June 28, 2021

Want to hire an alien worker for $10.00 an hour, with the complete approval of the U.S. government?

If you do — or if you want to find out if your competitors do — USCIS has just opened a data hub where you can see what other companies in your line of work are paying their H-2B (non-ag, non-skilled) alien workers.

I was prepared to write a completely positive posting about an advance in transparency in a federal foreign worker program, and it is a welcome development, when I started to browse through its content and my critical faculties were alerted.

The new data source is the H-2B Data Hub. It provides information on companies using the program, where they operate, what work they do, how many workers they have (and how many denials they have experienced), and what they pay their workers. It is organized around the names of employers.

H-2B employers are not well known by name, unlike the massive users in the H-1B program, largely for alien college graduates with high-tech jobs, like Microsoft, IBM, and the Indian outsourcing companies, like Infosys and Tata. I have been writing about H-2B off and on for years, but I could not summon up a name of an H-2B employer, so I resorted to dropping a generic term into the search tool. I chose “landscaping” and a large number of firms appeared on the list, and then “services” and I saw even more.

One of the first companies to show up was Alpha Services, which has its headquarters in Idaho, but many of its workers are in Mississippi. I looked further, and found that they had 78 continuing workers doing something in the overall category of “Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting”, a Bureau of Labor Statistics classification. My guess is that they were doing forestry work, because fishing and hunting are not big occupations for foreign workers, and agriculture has its own exploitative foreign worker program, H-2A.

Bear in mind that the Alpha Services’ worksite is in Mississippi, where the state-wide unemployment rate of 6.1 percent is well above the national average, and where there is an abundant supply of available workers.

And what are the hourly wages? They are $10.00 to $11.99.

Even lower wages may be found in other places in the file, but the system is not designed to help with that kind of research.

But it is useful that this kind of information, which has been displayed for years, if not decades, in the H-1B program, has now been made available in the H-2B program.

The Imperial, Colonizing H-2B Program. In fact, the H-2B program is legally available to employers in all 50 of the states, the District of Columbia, and four of our island territories (the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

But a drop-down feature of the H-2B website also lists American Samoa, which is not covered by the Mainland’s immigration law, and these long-since semi-independent island nations in the Central Pacific: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau. These three entities, all with delegations at the United Nations, used to be de facto colonies of the U.S., after earlier periods of Spanish, German, and Japanese imperial rule. Their mail services continue to be subsidized by the U.S. Postal Service, but H-2B does not reach their shores.

The author, who has worked briefly in both the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, used to be with the Office of Insular Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior.