Dirty Work: In-Sourcing American Jobs with H-2B Guestworkers

PRNewswire, February 16, 2010

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/–Few economists would assert that America has a shortage of unskilled labor. Yet every year, employers are permitted to import tens of thousands of unskilled guestworkers to fill jobs the employers claim no Americans want–jobs they claim are temporary or seasonal.

A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, “Dirty Work: In-Sourcing American Jobs with H-2B Guestworkers,” by CIS Fellow and retired Foreign Service Officer David Seminara, explores the H-2B guestworker program, which is for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural work. This paper aims to shed light on the poor conditions that H-2B guestworkers often toil in; to expose the damage it does to the most vulnerable sector of American workers: the poorly educated, students, minorities, and legal immigrants; to examine the recruiters who find workers and the employers who hire them; and to scrutinize the government’s role in sanctioning and managing the H-2B bureaucracy.

The report is at http://cis.org/h-2b-guestworkers. Among the findings:

* The popularity of the H-2B program soared from just 15,706 visas issued in 1997 to an all-time high of 129,547 in 2007. Issuances dropped to 44,847 in 2009, as Congress declined to renew a temporary expansion passed in 2005.

* Despite the global economic crisis, demand for H-2B guestworkers remains strong, even in areas with high unemployment rates. American companies filed petitions to request nearly 300,000 H-2B workers in FY 2008. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce listed expanding the H-2B program as one of its “Policy Priorities for 2009.”

* The H-2B program was originally intended to help employers needing seasonal and/or temporary workers, but the majority of the program’s current users are neither small nor seasonal employers, but rather mid- to large-sized companies and recruiters that petition for H-2Bs to work for 10 months out of the year, year after year.

* Many of the businesses filing H-2B petitions for foreign workers are “body shops” that have no actual “seasonal or temporary” need for labor and instead rent workers out to other firms.

* Despite credible allegations and even convictions for fraud and abuse of both H-2B workers and the program in general, neither the Department of Labor nor the Department of Homeland Security has ever barred a U.S. company from filing H-2B petitions. Some repeat offenders continue to have their petitions approved to this day.

* Economists have found no evidence of a labor shortage in the occupational groups that constitute the bulk of H-2B employment.

[“Dirty Work: In-Sourcing American Jobs with H-2B Guestworkers,” by David Seminara can be read here. It can be downloaded as a PDF file here.]

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