DHS scolds Congress, approves 15,000 foreign workers

May 25, 2018 GMT

The Trump administration on Friday announced 15,000 additional visas for businesses to hire temporary help from foreign workers this summer, splitting the difference between “America first” advocates and business groups, who’d begged for nearly five times that number.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made the announcement just ahead of the Memorial Day holiday that traditionally marks the beginning of the summer season, with landscaping, resort and seafood businesses begging for the foreign help.

But she also blasted Congress for forcing her to make the decision, saying lawmakers should be the ones deciding the right levels of immigration and guest workers, not bureaucrats at her department.

Congress has set the yearly limit on seasonal H2-B workers at 66,000, with half going to winter job openings and half to summer jobs.

But for the past two years Congress has included language in spending legislation telling the Homeland Security department it can add up to 69,000 more visas for the summer season essentially punting the decision after lawmakers stalemated on a compromise.

Lawmakers have repeatedly raked Ms. Nielsen over the coals in hearings demanding she quickly approve all the visas and she’s pushed back, telling them if they wanted all of them, they should have written that into the law.

“We are once again in a situation where Congress has passed the buck and turned a decision over to DHS that would be better situated with Congress, who knows the needs of the program,” she said Friday.

In calculating the 15,000 number she said she consulted with the Labor Department to figure out the actual contours of the shortages.

They decided it was far less than the 69,000 maximum Congress had allowed.

Summertime businesses, though, have said they’ll have to shutter if they don’t get an influx of workers.

From crabmeat picking plants the the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia peninsula to amusement parks to lawn services, businesses say they’ve struggled to find Americans willing to work at the wages, hours and conditions they’re offering, and foreigners are the only solution.

Amusement parks, for example, say the high school and college schedules don’t match up very well with the summer work season. Landscapers say they have advertised far and wide, in English and Spanish, and can’t find workers.