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Multiple reports seem to indicate that the must-pass omnibus spending bill could quadruple the H-2B worker visa program. Congress must pass a spending bill this week to avoid a government shutdown.The omnibus could contain a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Thom Tillis’ (R-N.C.) that would quadruple the number of H-2B work visas issed each year to foreign workers.
The H-2B visa allows non-agricultural foreign workers to work in the U.S. on a temporary or seasonal basis. The current cap for H-2B visas is 66,000 per year. The bill would not raise the cap but would exclude any foreign worker who received an H-2B visa in the last three years. This would allow employers to hire new and returning H-2B workers, raising the number to around 264,000 workers per year.
The bill would also shift control of the program from the Department of Labor, which is responsible for protecting American and foreign workers from exploitation and abuse, to the Department of Homeland Security instead. Recently Buzzfeed did an expose on the H-2B visa and how it replaces American workers and exploits foreign workers.
This week several senators including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote a letter opposing the bill saying it, “would effectively rollback many basic protections for U.S. and foreign workers.” They also discussed the negative impact the bill would have on American workers as they are replaced with cheaper foreign labor.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.) also wrote a letter saying, “Now is not the time to advance legislation further depressing wages and employment of U.S. workers.”
For more Read more on this story at Buzzfeed.