Labor Day and the Vanishing American Worker

Unemployed individuals, especially during sustained jobless periods, suffer from stress that is often so intense that mental anxiety ultimately affects their physical well-being. Losing the self-identity and confidence that comes from having steady employment and regular income creates an enormous physical and mental challenge. The physical setbacks most likely to occur after job loss are headaches, backaches, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Since the unemployed no longer have work-related health care coverage, desperately needed treatment goes wanting, and physical disorders may worsen.

With tens of millions of Americans jobless and without health benefits in their underemployed status, the nation is experiencing an accelerating health crisis. Yet for decades, the federal government has persisted in issuing employment-based visas to foreign-born nationals. To be completely clear, a visa is synonymous with a job – a job that an American or legally present immigrant will not receive, because of the ready availability of cheap, imported labor.

The State Department issues so many categories of work visas that the exact total can be a mystery even to the most well-informed. Including qualifying family members of the primary visa recipient, the total is roughly 35. Whatever the Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies as an occupation category, a visa is most likely available to a foreign national to take the job.

The donor class persistently lobbies Congress, claiming acute worker shortages, and demands more foreign employees when domestic labor is plentiful. Even visas that expressly exclude work permission, the B-1 temporary business visitor, have been used to displace Americans. Despite the potential availability of able-bodied U.S. workers, Congress often increases existing visa caps. The H-2B for domestic nonagricultural workers is an example.

Daniel Costa, the Economic Policy Institute’s Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research, analyzed recent H-2B data and found that although the visa has an annual 66,000 cap, Congress and the White House have supplemented the total during the past few years. In 2021, 117,000 H-2B workers were present; in 2022, however, the program will increase to more than 150,000, a record high. The H-2B program has indirectly encouraged employers in the main hiring categories in which the visa is used – landscaping, construction, forestry, food processing, restaurants and hospitality – to engage in unscrupulous practices. Department of Labor statistics that Costa studied showed that between 2000 and 2021, employers stole $1.8 billion from U.S. and foreign-born workers.

Wage theft in the H-2B program is a grave concern. The Government and Accountability Office, after analyzing ten diverse cases, found thatdifferent industries with employees in 29 states failed to pay promised wages, overtime and charged H-2B workers exorbitant fees. The GAO also uncovered employers and recruiters who submitted fraudulent documentation to government officials, evaded IRS payroll taxes and laundered money.

The total count of potential workers climbs daily. The anticipated 2.1 million illegal aliens that will cross the Southwest Border will eventually, for the most part, either be granted asylum or parole; both come with work authorization. Sadly, few in Congress and no one in the White House cares when a foreign-born worker displaces an American. Since 2000, the total foreign-born population, a record 47 million, has grown by 50 percent; it’s doubled since 1990, tripled since 1980, and quintupled since 1970 – all workers or potential workers.

The U.S. doesn’t need 150,000 H-2B visas, the total Costa anticipates, to mow lawns, serve meals or hang dry wall. Americans can and will do those jobs, assuming a living wage. In his earlier reports, Costa wrote that “no labor shortages [exist] at the national level in the top H-2B occupations.” But the federal government and its Chamber of Commerce toadies are indifferent to displaced U.S. workers’ plights, their families or recently graduated job-seeking college students.

American workers on Labor Day 2022 struggle with a labor market stacked against them. In theory, a solution could be implemented – immediately reduce, with an eye toward eliminating, unnecessary employment visas. Sadly, though, the White House has proven time and again that it refuses to put Americans first.