In The News

Immigration Hawks Slam GOP’s ‘Appalling’ Backdoor Moves On Asylum, Guest Worker Visas


by Will Racke

  • Many Trump administration backers are skeptical of the GOP’s 2019 Department of Homeland Security spending bill.
  • Asylum reform could take a hit if the Price amendment, which would block U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from implementing strict new standards when making “credible fear” determinations, is enacted.
  • Another amendment would lift the per-country cap on employment-based green cards, which is currently set at 7 percent of the annual limit of roughly 120,000.

The GOP’s 2019 Department of Homeland Security spending bill may include $5 billion for a border wall, but some of President Donald Trump’s staunchest backers say it will do far more to undermine his immigration agenda than to advance it.

Trump heaped praise on the bill’s primary author, Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, in a message of thanks that doubled as an endorsement for reelection in a swing district that Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016.

“Thank you to Congressman Kevin Yoder! He secured $5 BILLION for Border Security,” Trump wrote July 18 on Twitter. “Now we need Congress to support. Kevin has been strong on Crime, the Border, the 2nd Amendment, and he loves our Military and Vets. @RepKevinYoder has my full and total endorsement!”

Immigration hawks shared little of Trump’s enthusiasm for the DHS spending proposal, however. Even though it included a hefty sum for border wall construction, the bill “put the interests of illegal aliens and foreign workers” ahead of American citizens, said Chris Chmielenski of NumbersUSA, a grassroots organization that advocates for lower levels of immigration.

That’s because Yoder and House Appropriations Committee chair Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey helped to tack on several amendments that would undermine the administration’s efforts to tighten asylum rules and protect American workers from competition from cheap imported labor.

Killing asylum reform

The biggest rebuke to Trump’s immigration policies came in the form of an amendment offered by Rep. David Price, a North Carolina Democrat. The Price amendment would block U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS component that handles asylum petitions, from implementing strict new standards when making “credible fear” determinations.

USCIS adopted the new guidelines after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled in June that gang and domestic violence alone could no longer serve as a basis for a valid asylum claim. In a policy memo issued earlier in July, the agency applied Sessions’ ruling to asylum officers, who make the initial determination of credible fear that allows asylum seekers to pursue their claims in immigration court.

“Claims based on … the members’ vulnerability to harm of domestic violence or gang violence committed by non-government actors will not establish the basis for asylum, refugee status, or a credible or reasonable fear of persecution,” the USCIS memo states.

The guidance has the practical effect of foreclosing asylum claims by most migrants from Mexico and Central America, which are almost always based on fear of non-political violence. By tightening the credible fear standard, the administration says it is discouraging illegal immigration from those countries and paring down an asylum backlog that has surpassed 300,000 pending cases.

But if the Price amendment makes it through a House floor vote and into the final appropriations bill, it will restore the incentive for thousands of migrants to cross the border illegally to petition for asylum, Fox News host Laura Ingraham argued.

“If the new barometer for asylum status is whether a foreigner feels safe in his or her home country, we might as well throw the borders wide open,” Ingraham, an influential voice among Trump’s populist base, said Thursday night on her show.

Border hawks were especially angry that Republicans on the appropriations committee allowed the amendment to proceed on a voice vote. In a voice vote, the chairman asks for “yea” or “nay” responses to a proposal and announces the result according to his judgment — members’ votes are not recorded.

“It’s appalling that Reps. Frelinghuysen and Yoder allowed the amendment to pass by a voice vote; the outcome may have been very different if members were forced to vote on the record,” Chmielenski wrote in a blog post Thursday.

More guest workers

The Price amendment was not the only addition to the spending bill that Republicans put to a voice vote. Frelinghuysen’s committee also passed three amendments that, if enacted, would more than triple the number of guest worker visas and do away with per-country limits on employment-based green cards.

The guest worker amendments pertain to two visa programs, the H-2A and the H-2B, that allow U.S. companies to bring in thousands of foreign laborers each year if they are unable to find American workers to fill the jobs. Business groups have long advocated for expanding both programs, arguing that there are not enough Americans willing or able to meet their labor needs.

The H-2A amendment, offered by GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington, states guest workers will be admitted under the program “without regard to whether such labor is, or services are, of a temporary or seasonal nature.” It would give non-seasonal agriculture companies such as dairy producers access to the H-2A foreign labor pool, which has no annual cap.

The H-2B amendment was a bipartisan effort from Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine. Their proposal would exempt H-2B recipients from the previous two fiscal years from being counted against the current year’s cap, meaning the number of foreign guest workers admitted under the program could be three times as high as the annual cap of 66,000.

Immigration hawks are skeptical of the need for additional guest workers, and some have called for the elimination of H-2 visas entirely. Groups such as NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which have seen many of their ideas championed by Trump, argue the programs displace native-born workers and drive down wages for young and low-skilled employees.

If successful, the guest worker expansion would come at a time when many low and middle-skill workers are seeing wage increases after decades of stagnation.

No country-of-origin limits on employment green cards

The third amendment that incensed mass immigration skeptics came from Yoder himself. Originally included in Yoder’s stalled Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, the proposal would lift the per-country cap on employment-based green cards, which is currently set at 7 percent of the annual limit of roughly 120,000.

The tech industry has lobbied extensively for the elimination of country caps because they create long lines for their foreign employees working on H-1B visas — a temporary program — to adjust to immigrant status. Likewise, Indian-American groups are pushing for the reform because Indian guest workers dominate the H-1B program — three out of every four H-1B petitions approved in 2017 went to workers from India, according to USCIS data.

Leading U.S. tech companies cheered the passage of Yoder’s amendment. Amazon, the second largest recipient of H-1B workers in 2017, thanked the Kansas Republican on its Twitter account dedicated to public policy.

“Amazon applauds @KevinYoder on the passage of his amendment to the [DHS] appropriations bill, H.R. 392, that would remove the per-country limit on green cards,” the company wrote. “This is an important step towards green card reform, and Amazonians thank you for your leadership on this issue.”

But immigration skeptics like Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, argue that what tech firms and ethnic lobbies call “green card reform” would make it easier for U.S. companies replace their American employees with cheap foreign labor.

“Eliminating the cap would speed up the issuance of their green cards, making the H-1B that much more attractive to potential low-paid tech workers and that much more useful for employers looking to replace their American workforce with foreigners,” Krikorian wrote Friday in a column for National Review. “The flip side is that people from other countries, generally more highly skilled than the H-1Bs, would be crowded out as virtually all employment-based green cards went to Indians.”

The homeland security committee bill still has several hurdles to jump before it reaches Trump’s desk. It must pass in a House floor vote, and then House leadership must reconcile the differences with the Senate version, which could entail stripping amendments from the spending package.

In the meantime, influential Trump allies like Ingraham are calling on the president to oppose the immigration proposals coming out of the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee. Failing to do so would amount to a costly betrayal of his base in favor of business interests, Ingraham argued Thursday.

“I’ll tell you one thing it means — no more Donald Trumps,” Ingraham said. “And big business will revel of course, in the glut of low-skilled workers in the midst of what they claim is a labor crunch.”

“It was President Trump’s get-tough approach on immigration, his relentless focus on the American worker, the American family, that helped him win the election against all odds,” she said.

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  1. No country limits :
    Facts Matter:
    a) Eliminating per country cap will not speed up issuance of green cards, is not about flooding cheap labour, the comments from Mark is dis-honest. In current system due to huge backlog for Indians, for e.g. A physician from India is not preferred for green cards and will be in waiting in line for more than 50 years before getting green card but peoples much lower skilled (line chef, or religious worker) but from countries like Nigeria or Timbuktu will get green card in less than 6 months. Is this fair ?

    Most of the folks stuck in line are from India and China and belong to EB2 category, this is specialized job and skill category includes, Doctors, Physicians, Veterinarians, etc. They all have come legally to USA and have been law abiding people patiently waiting for their turn, they have contributed millions of dollars towards tax, local development , social security, and Medicare taxes, and have not taken single cent of assistance from the government, so tell me why you don’t prefer this type of immigrant.

    Yoder’s amendment is nothing but “First in line, First to be served” not be concerned which country the applicants are coming from…

  2. “Yoder’s amendment is nothing but “First in line, First to be served” not be concerned which country the applicants are coming from…”

    Really? Is that all it is? Then why doesn’t it just say that in so many words? Especially since 1965, nearly every bill passed has been bloated with jot and tiddle to cover every singles, possible, likely, convoluted, possiblity. The Constitution was written on about 1 1/2 pages and the Bill of Rights on even less. But the swamp critters have been so wordy that any lawyer can argue any point and find it in any bill. Guaranteed this bill is no different!

    Today, immigration and illegal invasion is about ONE thing – the destruction of the Republic and the dissolution of its Sovereignty! Our enemies – perhaps including you – want us to focus on the specific emotional issues, and remain oblivious to the sought outcome. Case in point.; you claim “Most of the folks stuck in line are from India and China…” and suggest that we shouldn’t care about that. Instead it’s about how unfair WE are by limiting how many we admit from their countries of origin!

    Here is the TRUTH; both countries are SOCIALIST and China is outright, blood-wrought, Communist! Their cultural values are completely opposed to actual Americanism. It isn’t that they cannot come to embrace Americanism – many of them gladly will. But it’s a numbers game, a slow progression, that over time is designed to destroy Americanism by the slow dilution of our principles with that of socialism. These people come to us as harbingers of anti-American socialist values and after a while there will be enough of them who still embrace that socialism to finally execute the principles we hold dear with a SIMPLE VOTE!!! Face it – socialism is the big lie that is the easiest sell of all – money for nuthin’ and the chicks for free!!!

    You probably don’t understand a word I’m saying, but it is at such a crisis that, sadly, even good people from bad countries are going to get stung in our defense of our Founding Principles! The leftist, commie, xenophiles (who don’t actually care about foreigners but only wish to use them for their anti-Amnerican purposes) have so promoted the influx of law breaking alians that we now face a crisis that cannot be fair even to those who come here legally!!! But that is the halmark of the left – create a crisis and then scream bloody murder on behalf of THEIR victems!!! And its always handy to blame those of us who Stand for Americanism!

    Your comments are laced with implied sympathy for the victims – there isn’t a single word on behalf of Americans. ESPECIALLY middle class white Americans. We have always welcomed foreigners who come here and pour themselves into Individual Accomplishment and complete addoption of our values. But that is no longer fashionable and certainly NOT in keeping with the Globalist Agenda! Who the hell are you to decide my culture is wrong and that I should give it up just because you want something different – especially for non Americans?! I am NOT part of any “collective”!

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