Despite more than 33 million Americans filing for unemployment in recent weeks due to the Chinese coronavirus crisis, business is continuing to demand more foreign workers to take jobs in the United States.
On Thursday, a coalition of Republican House and Senate lawmakers sent letters to President Trump asking that he expand his immigration executive order to suspend foreign visa worker programs like the H-1B visa, the H-2B visa, the H-2A visa, and the OPT program while millions of Americans remain jobless.
Even with unemployment reaching record levels, businesses relying on foreign visa workers continue to claim there is a labor shortage.
Proponents of the various foreign visa worker programs told Newsweek that businesses need imported foreign labor even during times of mass unemployment:
Advocates who spoke with Newsweek said that the problem with carving out an exception for agricultural workers but targeting the rest of guest workers, is that those with H-2B nonagricultural visas for example, include seafood processors in Louisiana, and meatpackers in places like Iowa. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) estimates that 80 percent of meatpacking plant workers are undocumented workers or refugees, many of whom would be directly impacted by the Republican plan. [Emphasis added]
Saket Soni, the executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance, said that for an employer to bring in a guest-worker they must attest to a labor shortage, calling into question whether the lawmaker’s goals are simply to go after guest workers indefinitely, even after the crisis has passed. [Emphasis added]
Seafood processing companies in Maryland and Virginia told local media that they need foreign visa workers because there are no Americans to fill the jobs. The seafood processing industry has repeatedly been accused of abusing foreign visa workers.
Maryland Matters reported:
“What college graduate can you train to pick a can of crab meat in six minutes?” said Dayme Hahn, the manager of Faidley Seafood, a famous crab cake purveyor in Baltimore. “If you sit there and watch these people, you would say, ‘I could never do that.’” [Emphasis added]
And few workers want a seasonal job. Crabbing is a heavily regulated industry, with the Department of Natural Resources deciding when the harvest starts and ends each year ― usually sometime between April and November. [Emphasis added]
In Chesapeake Bay Magazine, seafood processing companies complained that they are running at lower capacity because they have not been able to import as many foreign visa workers:
Many of the crabmeat processing businesses around the Bay are short-handed because they failed to get federal approval to bring in as many foreign workers as they have in previous years. [Emphasis added]
As a result, only three of Maryland’s nine “picking houses,” as the crab processors are known, received any visas in the initial drawing. After missing out on the lottery, Lindy’s Seafood on Hoopers Island was looking at limping along with a half-dozen local workers. [Emphasis added]
“We could sell more product, we just can’t produce it,” said sales manager Aubrey Vincent. [Emphasis added]
Specifically, the employers want more H-2B foreign visa workers — those who mostly arrive from Mexico and Central America to take nonagricultural jobs that could otherwise go to working class Americans.
Already, more than 66,000 H-2B foreign visa workers are admitted every year. The State Department, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, is allowing employers to fast-track these foreign workers by waiving certain visa requirements with no additional medical screenings.
Officials have suggested that Trump is considering expanding his immigration executive order to protect unemployed Americans from being forced to compete against foreign workers in the labor market.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News.