Report Urges U.S. to Cut Foreign Work Authorizations by 1.2 Million

Ahead of this week’s deadline for a federal review of work permit/visa programs, a new study calls for cutting the influx of temporary foreign labor by almost half.

President Donald Trump’s April 22 proclamation suspending a tiny fraction of immigration into the country gave the departments of Labor, State and Homeland Security 30 days to review nonimmigrant programs to “ensure the prioritization, hiring and employment of United States workers.”

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) took up the challenge and recommended reducing temporary work visas and permits by 1.2 million. Since many programs that granted entry to 2.7 million foreign workers last year are administrative creations, congressional action would not be required in most cases.

In the first of 20 steps to protect a U.S. workforce hammered by layoffs and job losses stemming from coronavirus-related shutdowns, the “Hire American” report recommendsrescinding approval of “all labor certifications for pending employment-based immigrant visas and green card/adjustments of status.”

The report goes on to propose immediately halting applications for several work-permitting programs, including:

  • The Optional Training Program (219,000 new enrollees last year). The controversial job program for foreign students “incentivizes fraud, enables diploma mills and cries out for more oversight,” said Jessica Vaughn, CIS director of policy studies and author of the report.
  • E visas (60,000 annually) purportedly promote foreign investment, but rely heavily on imported workers. Vaughn cited the frequent example of immigrants who open restaurants and staff them exclusively with more of their countrymen. A related program, the scandal-scarred EB-5, is essentially a cash-for-visas scheme that has consistently failed to fulfill its proclaimed mission of boosting U.S. employment in economically distressed communities.
  • H-1B and H-2B visas (190,000 and 97,000 last year) would be tightened to eliminate hiring abuses that disadvantage or exclude American workers. “Employers’ addiction to cheap foreign labor needs to be broken,” asserts CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian.
  • H-4 visas (93,000 last year) grant work permits to spouses and children of temporary work visa holders. H-4s were invented by the Obama administration and never authorized by Congress.
  • J visa exchange workers (330,000 admitted last year). Vaughn called one J visa component, the summer work travel program, a “naked cheap labor” scheme.

Astoundingly, CIS found that 144,000 work permits are held by illegal aliens under removal orders. Vaughn said those permits, along with some 438,000 work authorizations held by asylum seekers, demand unstinting review and, where appropriate, revocation.

“The case for dramatically reducing the number of foreign workers has never been greater,” the CIS study concludes.

With more than 30 million U.S. jobs lost in just three months, and the likelihood that a full jobs recovery will take far longer, downsizing America’s bloated collection of migrant work permits and visas is Job One.

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