Does Our Country Need More Non-Immigrant Seasonal Workers during a Recession

Posted: Apr 10, 2008 4:33 PM

Sometimes Congressional Republicans amaze me with their short-sightedness. In the mid-term elections in 2006 the Republican Party lost control of both Houses of Congress. There were many factors which contributed to the loss. One of the most prominent was their failure to enact legislation that would curb the flow of illegal immigrants into this country and begin enforcing America's borders. It seems the electoral loss did little to correct their oversight.

Last week Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-FL) signed a discharge petition to bring H.R. 1843, sponsored by Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI), with the misleading title of the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act, to the House Floor for a vote. The bill would "amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to exempt certain returning H-2B aliens [temporary non-agricultural worker] from annual numerical limitations" before the program expires. Currently the number of H-2B visas is capped at 66,000 a year. If this legislation were passed there would be no limit to the number of nonresident immigrants who could work in the United States in construction, landscaping, food services, tourism and other industries.

Putnam is not alone in his support for the bill. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) supports the extension of the H-2B visa program as well.

Such a move is particularly galling in light of the economic trouble currently facing many Americans. Some have lost their jobs or houses and are desperate for work. The idea that there are not enough Americans willing to do these jobs would be risible were this not such a clear attempt to pander to certain sectors of the business community which want cheap labor. Putnam did so himself when he noted that discharging the bill from committee is "the right thing to do" because many small businesses "rely on the short-term labor the visas provide," according to ROLL CALL newspaper. The problem is not that there is a lack of Americans willing to do these jobs; it is that businesses do not want to pay Americans.

Some Republicans have urged that the Republican Leadership reconsider its support for the bill until an effort is made to enforce our borders first. This is a good suggestion. Hopefully the Leadership will take it to heart. What we need to do is to enforce the borders first, then re-evaluate our visa programs. Let's not put the cart before the horse.