Too often, companies hire unskilled illegal aliens to cut back on costs, despite there being a large pool of able, willing, capable Americans looking for work. Yet, not as much focus is given on the adverse impacts of the H-2B visa, a legal means to hire foreign nationals that similarly snubs American workers.
The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers to temporarily hire low-skilled foreign nationals to fill seasonal, nonagricultural occupations. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for companies to recruit H-2B guestworkers, they must demonstrate there were not enough U.S. workers willing, able, qualified, and available to occupy those temporary jobs before applying for guestworkers through the Department of Labor (DOL). The bulk of these positions in the H-2B category are in fields such as landscaping, forestry, hospitality, culinary, and construction. In addition, visa holders of this program are commonly paid less than native-born Americans, making it cheaper to employ foreign nationals.
On October 27, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had reached a settlement with a construction company. The DOJ Civil Rights Division asserted that the company failed to comply with the anti-discrimination provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act by not considering workers in the United States, preferring H-2B guestworkers. The DOJ also found that employers attempted to dissuade U.S. workers by placing needlessly stiff requirements in the 2019 job posting.
This incident is the tip of the iceberg for misuse of the H-2B program. In 2018, a forestry company from Mississippi chose to apply for nonimmigrant employees instead of actively hiring U.S. workers. The organization had few job postings and no public website for potential applicants. In 2019, authorities investigated a bus company based out of Houston that was not considering applications from U.S. citizens, preferring to solicit the DOL for H-2B workers.
A report by the Center for Immigration Studies found that many other employers have outright denied jobs to American workers so that they could hire H-2B guestworkers instead. The report also found that many of these same companies do not make job openings known to U.S. citizens. As a result, these companies have prevented scores of American citizens from obtaining employment. More U.S. workers will be subject to this type of mistreatment unless this fraud is addressed.
As FAIR has advocated, one measure to curtail fraud in the H-2B visa program would be to reduce the number of industries eligible for the program. Under this revision, the DOL would review which fields genuinely have labor shortages in an effort to curtail the misuse of nonimmigrant visas in sectors that do not require foreign labor. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security and DOL should increase worksite enforcement to examine as many allegations of fraud and abuse associated with the guestworker program as possible. American workers deserve a fair shot at the labor market rather than coming second to unethical money-saving schemes induced by employers.