Justice in Motion (formally Global Workers Justice Alliance) says that a draft Executive order “cherry picks categories and continues a long tradition of allowing U.S. employers to hire an easily exploitable temporary foreign workforce over U.S. workers.”
Another Executive Order (EO) that affects justice across borders for migrants, has yet to be released but was recently leaked to the press: Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Program.
This EO calls for administrative reform to various temporary foreign worker visa categories to ensure that U.S. workers get priority access to jobs before foreign workers do. We support the premise, but when we look deeper into the details, we are concerned that the EO will not actually achieve this goal.
First, the H-2B foreign work visa — used regularly at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club to hire cooks, waiters, and housekeepers — is entirely absent from the EO. As the Palm Beach Post reported, there were more than 35,000 local job seekers in Palm Beach County where the Club is located, yet Trump made only one request to the state employment agency for a single U.S. worker.
Next, the EO calls for “efficient processing” of employer petitions under the H-2A agricultural visa program. (In addition to employing H-2B workers, Trump family businesses also hire H-2A workers.) This so-called “efficient processing” is a euphemism for bypassing U.S. farmworker recruitment, enabling employers to more quickly and readily access the foreign labor pool. As Buzzfeed revealed in an award-winning expose, U.S. farmworkers are often considered differently and excluded access to these jobs in preference for foreign workers.
If protecting U.S. workers is a priority, then the H-2A and H-2B visa program should also be reformed to allow U.S. workers to have more access to these job opportunities — not less.
Finally, the EO also calls for reform of the J-1 Summer Work Travel visa, a J-1 visa category that allows foreign college students to work for three months in low-wage jobs. But Summer Work Travel is not the only J-1 visa category that needs reform. The lower wage subcategories of the J-1 exchange visitor visa are \chronically misused by U.S employers to avoid hiring U.S. workers, for whom they will have to payroll taxes, recruitment costs, and market-rate wages. If the administration was genuinely concerned about protecting U.S. workers, J-1 categories like interns, trainees, camp counselors and au pairs in hospitality and childcare would not have been conspicuously absent from the EO.