The Department of Homeland Security will issue up to 15,000 visas allowing U.S. companies to hire temporary, non-agricultural workers, an announcement that comes as President Donald Trump has pushed a “Hire American” theme and at the start of the administration’s “Made in America” week.
To qualify for the H-2B visas, hiring companies must attest under the penalty of perjury that they are “likely to suffer irreparable harm” without the influx of workers, the Department of Homeland Security’s Monday announcement said.
The additional visas are being allowed, the department said, because the annual, congressionally mandated allotment of 66,000 H-2Bs was reached last March, leaving some businesses without “enough qualified and willing U.S. workers available to perform temporary nonagricultural labor.”
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in his department’s statement that the additional visas are designed to help U.S. businesses.
“Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses at risk of significant harm due to a lack of available seasonal workers,” Kelly said. “As a demonstration of the Administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap.”
The DHS announcement makes no mention of the White House’s “Made in America” week, expected to include a series of events highlighting American manufacturing. It is the first of a series of theme weeks announced by the White House, which will also include “American Heroes” week and “American Dreams” week.
The influx of additional foreign workers into the U.S. labor pool appears to at least contrast with the president’s regular campaign-trail refrain that his White House would advocate in favor of “Buy American, Hire American” practices.
Last April, Trump signed an executive order aimed at codifying his “Buy American, Hire American” pledge, ordering federal agencies to examine government practices and review all programs under which foreign workers enter the U.S. While the order extended to all visas, it mentioned only one by name: the H-1B visa, which allows companies to bring highly skilled employees into the U.S.
At a briefing for reporters on the order, a senior Trump administration official said it would direct the departments of labor, justice and homeland security to seek out and crack down on “fraud and abuse … in our immigration system in order to protect workers in the United States and their economic conditions.”
By Louis Nelson for POLITICO
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