The Corner

Immigration

Economic Meltdown? Mass Unemployment? Solution: More Immigration!

Field workers pick strawberries on a farm in Oxnard, Calif., in 2013. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

Schools are closed. Millions of Americans are out of work. Unemployment may reach 20 percent.

Solution? More immigration!

That’s a sarcastic tagline I often use on Twitter, but in this case it’s literally what some people are pushing.

For instance, Bloomberg reported on Friday on that:

The National Pork Producers Council put in a request to members of Congress this week for more visas through the country’s guest-worker program, citing school closures that are preventing employees from going to work.

At first I thought this was satire, but it seems to be real. The request is so outrageous that even the labor union, whose parent organizations switched sides and joined the anti-borders movement in the ’90s, are complaining about it.

Another example: Two Hill sources report that there’s a push to slip into the WuFlu stimulus bill a big increase in the EB-5 investor-visa program. That program effectively sells U.S. citizenship, giving green cards to foreigners in exchange for an investment, usually in an upscale real-estate development project that would have gotten the capital anyway, albeit at a slightly higher rate. The program currently provides 10,000 green cards a year, overwhelmingly to wealthy Chinese, and the proposal would increase that to 75,000 a year, in addition to reducing the minimum required investment.

At least the pig farmers tried to connect their request to the current crisis; the EB-5 effort, which was floating around before the pandemic, is pure immigration pork. (Sorry.)

There’s also an increase in the H-2B work-visa program in the works. Congress was pressured by lobbyists for the landscaping industry, among others, to increase the number of H-2B visas, which are for low-skilled, seasonal jobs not in agriculture. Rather than simply increase the cap from the current 66,000 per year — which would require a vote for which citizens could hold them accountable — our legislators passed the buck to DHS to make the decision (and take the heat), as they did three times before. The administration should have simply called Congress’s bluff and refused to increase the cap at all, tossing the issue back to the Capitol.

Instead, the administration authorized an increase of 35,000 additional visas, up from the 30,000 extra it authorized last year, and the 15,000 extra the two prior years. The first batch of these visas are scheduled to be distributed April 1. While such an increase is bad policy at any time, under current circumstances it would be inexcusable. And yet a DHS spokesman told the Washington Times that no changes were planned. The entire increase should be retracted.

And finally, the lottery for H-1B visas (usually for tech workers) is scheduled for later this month, with the winners notified April 1. While statute allocates 85,000 H-1B visas annually (plus an unlimited number for universities), the lottery and the distribution of additional visas should be postponed.

As my colleague Jessica Vaughan writes, “there is a good case for suspending admission of all temporary workers, with few exceptions, until the crisis subsides and the economy begins to recover. The State Department has suspended visas for many exchange workers, and DHS should follow suit with respect to guestworker programs under its management.”

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