Cotton, Cruz, Grassley, Hawley urge H2B visa restriction, but not H2A
Four Republican senators last week wrote a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to move forward with proposals from White House aide Stephen Miller to suspend the issuance of visas for H-1B workers (specialty occupation workers), H-2B workers (nonagricultural seasonal workers) and to end the Occupational Practical Training Program that allows foreign students to stay in the United States after graduation for a work period.
The letter, dated Thursday, was authored by Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and John Hawley of Missouri
The senators said that in the midst of high coronavirus-related unemployment, high school graduates and college students should have “access to seasonal nonagricultural work such as summer resort employment or landscaping before those positions are given to imported foreign labor under the H-2B program.”
They also said that recent college graduates in the business, technology or STEM fields should not have to compete with workers brought in under the H-1B program or foreign graduates who are allowed to stay in the United States for one to three years of additional training.
The senators’ letter did not mention the H-2A farm workers for whom ag groups lobbied hard and Trump has exempted from plans to keep immigrant labor out of the country.
The H-2B Coalition, whose members include the hospitality, forestry and landscaping industries, also lobbied against the proposal but have not received the same level of acceptance from the administration.
Mario Castillo, a former House Agriculture Committee chief of staff, noted in an email that attempts to convince Americans to take tough, physical jobs in the past have not worked. Castillo’s lobbying clients at The Aegis Group include the Twin Mountain Fence Co. of San Angelo, Texas, which uses H-2B workers each summer to install and repair fences on ranches.
Castillo cited a 2018 National Public Radio story about the failed attempt by Willard Wirtz, President Lyndon Johnson’s Labor secretary, to get high school athletes to replace farm workers. The students, known as the A-Team, lasted at the longest two weeks.
Fifty years later, one of the students told NPR, “We went through something you can’t explain to anyone, unless you were out there in that friggin’ heat.” He noted, “It could only be lived.”
The NPR article said the “A-Team was considered a giant failure and was never tried again.”
Castillo said in an email, “To no one’s surprise, other than the Washington elites of yesteryear, it was buried in the dust of history’s bins. So, will today’s youth accustomed to picking up iPads, iPhones, play stations, etc., rush to the yards and the forests? Will the Republican senators’ adoption of an old Democratic playbook work this time around?”
Castillo said the situation is proving that the late writer Gore Vidal was right when he said Americans remember the past so little the country should be called ”The United States of Amnesia.”
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.