President Trump’s rhetoric is aimed at the heart of the American worker, but his policies have delivered one gut punch after another. Now three administration officials have confirmed plans to invite 45,000 seasonal guest workers this summer under the H-2B visa program—the most since Trump sailed into the White House on a working-class wave.
Record numbers of H-2B visas, moreover, is merely one car in a long train of lousy news delivered to the forgotten men and women who Trump promised “will be forgotten no longer.”
Thirty-four Republicans signed their names to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038) in December. Among other things, the bill would provide a path to legalization for an estimated 1.5 million foreign nationals in the United States illegally—that is, amnesty—and expand the H-2A foreign guest worker program. There are few heroes in the GOP on the immigration front; even Rep. Devin Nunes signed H.R. 5038.
Trump’s call to “Buy American and Hire American,” then, is a proposition with miles of fine print that both he and the GOP hope no one reads. The cost of those particulars is, after all, often paid in blood.
In March 2019, a sheriff’s deputy in Kittitas County, Washington, was shot dead by a man with an H-2A visa that had expired five years before. The following month, a 13-year-old girl was struck and killed by an Argentinian woman in Kissimmee, Florida, who had overstayed a work visa. In fiscal year 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported 74,000 convictions and charges for aliens for driving under the influence—as Ismael Huazo-Jardinez was when he crashed into a Sutter County mobile home and killed three people with a blood-alcohol content of .122 percent.
All of these one time guest workers transformed overnight into the illegal immigrants the president rages against at rallies. And there’s the rub: while visa overstayers account for the vast majority of illegal immigrants, the Trump Administration is welcoming with open arms record numbers of guest workers from countries with high overstay rates.
“Government programs,” as Ronald Reagan said, ”once launched, never disappear.” Nothing seems to be more permanent than a “guest worker.” Even if Trump builds his “big, beautiful wall,” he is creating a massive backdoor and giving the key to corporations eager to feast on a buffet of cheap labor.
Trump ran on the promise of reaffirming the dignity of those Americans left behind in the wake of globalization, a process that effectively has functioned as a mass wealth redistribution scheme.
“In this case,” writes Harvard economist and immigration expert George J. Borjas, “immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants—from the employee to the employer.”
Why hire an American with worker’s rights to do a job for $23 per hour, when you can beef up your bottom line by paying a guest worker with no rights less than half of that?
Visa programs artificially loosen the labor market, thereby reducing the bargaining power of American workers with their employers. The result is lower earnings and fewer opportunities for the most impoverished and marginalized Americans, compared to higher profits for those who employ foreign workers at lower wages. These programs also have the added effect of slowing down advancements in the field of farm mechanization. Trump insists “we must embrace the next frontier: America’s manifest destiny in the stars,” yet seems content to continue “Farming Like it’s 1699” here on Earth.
But corporate parsimony goes beyond wages and 17th century techniques.
An investigation by the Department of Labor found H-2A workers in Missouri were housed in rooms with broken toilets and swarming with bed bugs while being forced to work by employers who threatened them.
A Mississippi company was sued because it forced H-2A workers to buy their own breakfast and lunch, which, according to the Department of Labor, “caused their out-of-pocket expenses to exceed the amount stated on the job order that the staffing company used to secure the workers.”
This is the very definition of slavery: “you work, and I eat.” But the guest worker racket takes food out of the mouths of American workers most of all.
Borjas estimates that the total wealth redistribution from the “losers” (those who compete with immigrant workers) to the “winners” (those who employ immigrant workers) is around $500 billion a year. When he factors in that immigrants—including guest workers—receive government assistance at higher rates than natives, what results is an additional fiscal burden of $50 billion placed squarely on the backs of America’s working class.
“Put bluntly,” Borjas says, “immigration turns out to be just another income redistribution program.” This is socialism for the benefit of the Davos class.
While the rich celebrate and donate to their favorite Democrat or “principled” Republican, the American working class suffers. When they suffer, they turn to opioids. Families and communities fall apart.
If President Trump had pledged to facilitate illegal immigration, undermine the wages of the most vulnerable Americans, and to perpetuate a system rife with exploitation, it’s unlikely he would have won his seat in the Oval Office. Now that is precisely what he is doing. The people being run down, run over, shot, stabbed, and beaten in the streets for supporting the president, deserve better.