The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress late last week and signed into law by President Donald Trump includes a provision allowing the administration to nearly double the number of H-2B visas available for US employers to hire temporary foreign workers this year to 129,547, Vox reported on Friday:
Last year, Congress allowed the Department of Homeland Security to issue more H-2B visas in 2017, as long as it didn’t surpass the highest number of H-2B visas ever issued in a year,which was 129,547 in 2007 (back then, returning H-2B workers weren’t counted in the visa cap). The agency ended up issuing an extra 15,000 in July last year, which was a low figure because the summer season was already halfway done. Congress made the same exception for the department this year. …
Competition for the visas has been fierce this year. The Department of Labor says it is swamped with applications from businesses that want to hire guest workers for the summer. By January 1, the department had received requests to hire 81,008 H-2B workers for the summer season — far beyond the 33,000 originally allowed. In February, a coalition of businesses that hire H-2B workers lobbied Congress to lift the cap again. It appears Congress heard them.
The expansion of the program comes as American companies in seasonal industries like hospitality are being pressed to compete more aggressively for temporary workers in the coming spring and summer season. While these employees don’t normally have the leverage to negotiate for higher pay, they are taking advantage of the tight labor market to demand more flexibility and control over their schedules. Last summer, some employers complained that Trump’s restrictive immigration policies were contributing to labor shortages and costing them business. The expansion of the H-2B program should help alleviate some of this pressure, but the new cap still falls well short of the number of applications that come in each year.
Protesters at a recent pro-DACA demonstration (AhXiong/Shutterstock.com)
Late on Tuesday, a federal judge in California issued an injunction blocking US President Donald Trump’s order winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought into the US as children, CNN reported on Wednesday:
Judge William Alsup also said the administration must resume receiving DACA renewal applications. But the ruling is limited — the administration does not need to process applications for those who have never before received DACA protections, he said. …
The ruling came in a challenge to the Department of Homeland Security brought by the University of California and others. In his 49-page ruling, Alsup said “plaintiffs have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the rescission was arbitrary and capricious” and must be set aside under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. The judge said a nationwide injunction was “appropriate” because “our country has a strong interest in the uniform application of immigration law and policy.”
The DACA program, which is based on the principle of prosecutorial discretion, was enacted in 2012 and has benefited some 800,000 individuals under 31 who arrived in the country before the age of 16, have lived in the US continuously since 2007, and are in school or have graduated. In total, up to 1.1 million so-called “dreamers” were eligible for the program, though not all who were eligible applied—potentially out of fear of “outing” themselves to the federal government as undocumented.
Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to drastically reduce legal and illegal immigration and to hasten the deportation of undocumented immigrants, ordered the DACA program canceled last September, giving Congress until March to find a legislative solution or the administration would begin phasing out its protections. Talks over a deal have stalled over disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over whether to pair it with funding for Trump’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border. The Trump administration intends to fight Alsup’s injunction, but the court battle could drag on for years. The upshot, the Washington Post explains, is that DACA beneficiaries remain uncertain of their future status unless and until Congress acts.
Over 100 human resource leaders have expressed their support for undocumented workers and made a call to action in light of the Trump administration’s announcement that will phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that grants temporary work permits and protection from deportation to younger undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children. Recently, according to Erin Mulvaney at the National Law Journal, chief human resource officers from companies such as Target, HP, and 21st Century Fox signed and sent a letter to Congress late last month calling for a legislative solution to preserve DACA and expressing concern over the intensity of political rhetoric on immigration:
“We are concerned that the rhetoric around immigration issues often obscures the truth about how foreign-born workers of all skill levels benefit their companies, American workers, American communities, and the American economy,” according to the letter, organized by the HR Policy Association. “Further, while we believe the existing immigration laws need to be responsibly enforced, we are concerned that discouraging these workers’ participation in the U.S. workforce through stricter policies would reduce productivity, intensify the ongoing workforce crisis, and disadvantage American businesses and their U.S. employees operating in the global economy.”
Last month also saw the launch of the Coalition for the American Dream, a group of employers dedicated to lobbying for the rights of these workers, which includes major power players such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. The coalition is also urging Congress to take action to protect the DACA program’s participants, often referred to as “Dreamers”:
President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has already stirred up a lot of controversy in the business world, with many CEOs and other corporate leaders speaking out either personally or on behalf of their companies to express opposition to it. Washington Post columnist Jena McGregor hears from several leadership experts that this outcry is not surprising, because business leaders are not as concerned as they used to be about the administration retaliating against them for speaking out:
If anything, said Jeff Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at Yale School of Management, it’s becoming more of the norm to speak out against the administration’s policies than for CEOs to bite their tongue. “I think the fear has largely dissipated unless you’re a major government contractor,” he said. “The idea of bullying — that’s no longer creating fear of consumer backlash. It’s almost becoming a badge of honor.”
We might even take it one step further: At a time when corporate activism is on the rise and most American millennials expect CEOs to be actively engaged on social issues, there is actually a risk involved in not taking a stand, especially when that stand accords with what many of your employees and customers believe. As we’ve seen in other recent controversies like the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, CEOs are taking on much larger portfolios as public figures today than perhaps ever before.
If public pressure is one force compelling corporate leaders to play activist roles, however, another major factor is the workforce: Employees and candidates, especially the vast cohort of millennials, are pushing their bosses to speak and act on the values most of them believe in. The tech sector’s opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, for example, has been guided in large part by activism among its employees, many of whom are themselves immigrants or the children of immigrants.
On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump ordered the cancellation of DACA, a program put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama that effectively shielded young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children from deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is based on the principle of prosecutorial discretion, was enacted in 2012 and has benefited some 800,000 individuals under 31 whose parents brought them into the country illegally before the age of 16, and had lived in the US continuously since 2007 and were in school or had graduated (though in total, 1.1 million may have been eligible for the program). DACA did not grant these immigrants US citizenship or permanent residency—only an act of Congress can do that—but made them a non-priority for immigration law enforcement and offered them renewable two-year work permits.
Trump and other critics of DACA have long maintained that it constituted an overreach of President Obama’s executive authority. Trump’s order gives Congress six months to enact a legislative alternative to protect the so-called “Dreamers” covered by DACA, after which time the administration will begin phasing out its protections. What that phase-out will look like is unclear: Trump has said he would “revisit this issue” at that time, creating massive uncertainty regarding the future direction of this policy if Congress fails to act.
Trump’s decision to end DACA has drawn swift and strong condemnation from the same set of American business leaders who have voiced criticism of the president’s other immigration policies. Last week, the pro-immigration reform business organization FWD.us issued an open letter to Trump and Congressional leaders, signed by hundreds of CEOs, calling on Trump not to end DACA and on Congress to act to give the Dreamers permanent legal status:
Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock
In two memos issued on Tuesday, the US Department of Homeland Security laid out new, stricter guidelines for enforcement of immigration policy, as the Trump administration’s effort to tighten America’s borders continues. According to the Associated Press, the new guidelines greatly expand the number of undocumented immigrants who could be targeted for deportation:
Any immigrant who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or minor offenses — or simply having crossed the border illegally. The Trump administration memos replace narrower guidance focusing on immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes, are considered threats to national security or are recent border crossers. …
The memos do not change U.S. immigration laws, but take a far harder line toward enforcement. One example involves broader use of a program that fast-tracks deportations. It will now be applied to immigrants who cannot prove they have been in the United States longer than two years. It’s unclear how many immigrants that could include.
The guidelines also call for hiring 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, expanding detention facilities for those awaiting deportation, and beginning construction on a wall along the US-Mexico border, but Congress will still have to provide funding for these projects to move forward. It is unclear how quickly the department would be able to hire so many new agents; Customs and Border Protection already has 2,000 vacancies, the AP notes, and most applicants for these jobs fail polygraph tests.
Foreign-born workers make up over 16 percent of the US labor force, totaling 26.3 million people, including both legally permitted and undocumented immigrants. During his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump vowed to crack down sharply on illegal immigration, with pledges to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and to establish a nationwide deportation force to remove an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants from the US.
One way Trump’s immigration policy may affect employers is if they employ beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Barack Obama established in 2012 and which is among the many executive actions of the Obama administration Trump has said he would undo. These employees, SHRM’s Roy Maurer explains, will lose their authorization to work if the program is canceled:
DACA granted reprieve from deportation and provided work authorization to more than 740,000 young people whose families brought them to the U.S. as children. Trump also promised to end a 2014 expansion of that program to many parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents that was held up in court and never implemented.
“Employers should be prepared for their employees to lose their work permits, if they were granted under the DACA program,” Stock said. Employers are not normally required to re-verify employment eligibility during the validity period of a worker’s employment authorization but would be required to terminate any DACA workers once they had “actual or constructive knowledge” that the employee had lost his or her work permission, he explained.
While the undocumented population is the main target of Trump’s immigration proposals, he has also criticized US businesses for outsourcing work abroad and using the H-1B skilled worker visa program to fill roles in the US with immigrants rather than US citizens. This is the main reason why Trump’s victory in the presidential race makes some Silicon Valley leaders nervous. The high-tech sector has relied heavily on access to a global market for tech talent, and more restrictive immigration policies could make it harder for those companies (but not only them) to acquire the highly skilled employees they need. As The Verge‘s Nick Statt explains, immigrants are also a key part of Silicon Valley’s self-identity: