President Elect Trump Tightens Grip On Visa Programs


President Elect Trump Tightens Grip On Visa Programs

November 22, 2016 – 10:00AM

As we inch closer to January 20th, President Elect Donald Trump is vehemently working to piece together his cabinet (insert punny IKEA joke). Recent reports have put Trump in the spotlight regarding his immigration policy. Trump said Monday in a video message that he will “direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.” The directive is one of many executive actions that Trump plans to roll out on Day One. How broad his actions will be is unknown, but his disdain for the H-1 program raises questions for other visa programs.

It is no secret that the H-1 program is abused by employers to undercut American workers and pay their replacements less. Many of these visa workers come to America to work for a few years and then go back to their home country. Recent studies show that many H-1’s do not even have intentions of becoming American citizens and they take the money and run. The blue collar workers who’ve helped Trump get elected are now crying foul and expect him to stick to his guns and deliver on creating jobs and decreasing illegal immigration. Other programs, like the J-1 student visa, have also recently come under fire due to issues with refugees and vetting. But what does this mean for H-2B?

Not much is certain at this point, but there are some red flags being raised. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has been appointed as Attorney General and his position on visa programs (particularly H-2B) are coarse. He was quoted in a recent H-2B RWE appropriations hearing saying, “H-2B employers are comparable to modern day slave owners”, and he has been a key opponent in the fight for the Returning Worker Exemption. His no-nonsense policy when it comes to immigration is worrisome. At the same time, Mr. Trump utilizes H-2B guest workers for his hotel properties across the United States and also brings in H-2A workers to mine his vineyards. Trump is a friend of H-2B, but many on his staff confuse immigration with guest workers.

For now, the hope is that the focus will be mainly on the other visa programs that (honestly) need reform. Over the years, H-1 and J-1 regulations have become less restrictive while H-2B remains desolated by constant regulation. A polar shift is possible and H-2B could actually become a “winner”. H-2B and curbing illegal immigration go hand-in-hand, but the next few weeks are crucial. Stay Tuned for more updates.

The following points were presented by Politico

TODAY: DECISION ON OVERTIME INJUNCTION: A federal judge in Texas will decide today whether to issue an injunction against the Labor Department’s overtime rule. The rule, set to take effect December 1, will double (to $47,476) the salary threshold under which virtually all workers are guaranteed time-and-a-half pay whenever they work more than 40 hours in a given week. If the judge decides not to enjoin, he’ll decide on Nov. 28 whether to grant summary judgment.

TRANSITION NEWS: Jane Norris will lead the Labor Department transition for the Trump administration, according to Jason Miller, the transition team’s communications director. Norris served as deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the Labor Department between 2004 and 2006. According to her LinkedIn page, she was also a morning anchor and commentator at Bonnveille Broadcasting.

CANDIDATES FOR CABINET: President-elect Donald Trump continues to meet with job candidates, POLITICO Pro’s Ted Hesson reports. On Monday he sat down with Elaine Chao, who was Labor secretary for all eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency. A written statement from the Trump transition said the two talked “about labor and transportation issues” — Chao was deputy Transportation secretary under President George H.W. Bush — “with a particular focus on America’s long-term infrastructure needs, and reducing or eliminating burdensome regulations.

Trump met Sunday with another possible candidate for Labor secretary, Peter Kirsanow, a 63-year-old labor and employment attorney who is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and served on the National Labor Relations Board from 2006 to 2008. Chao or Kirsanow would bring a note of diversity to a group thus far composed entirely of white men. (Chao was the first Asian-American woman appointed to any Cabinet post, and Kirsanow is African-American.) Trump met Saturday with yet another candidate for Labor secretary: Andy Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito.

The parade of Cabinet prospects in recent days also included Kris Kobach, an immigration adviser to the president-elect and current Kansas secretary of state. Kobach, who met with Trump Sunday, would like to be secretary of Homeland Security. We know that because he was carrying in his hand a “strategic plan for [the] first 365 days” at DHS. (We know that because of a Michelangelo Antonioni-style blow-up of an AP photo.) The 50-year-old Yale Law School graduate would certainly conform to Trump’s hard-line immigration agenda. Kobach helped draft state laws to combat illegal immigration, including Arizona’s S.B. 1070, which would have required foreign-born residents to carry immigration papers. The Supreme Court struck down most of the law’s key provisions in 2012.

Other stuff revealed in that blow-up of Kobach’s papers: restoration of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, a Muslim registry Kobach helped develop for the Bush Justice Department after 9/11. The program would track “all aliens from high-risk areas,” according to the document, and employ “extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens” to identify “support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women [and] the United States Constitution.” Kobach’s plan also proposes a complete stop on the inflow of Syrian refugees. One line partially blocked by Kobach’s hand suggests he might want to alter the definition of “criminal alien” to include “any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member.” More from POLITICO’s Nolan McCaskill here.

Another DHS candidate is former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also met with Trump Monday. They “had an in-depth discussion on homeland security, border control, and illegal immigration,” the Trump transition said in a written statement. “Their conversation also included the bureaucratic challenges facing the Department of Homeland Security and Defense, ISIS, and America’s place in the world.”

Two additional names under consideration for DHS secretary, according to the Washington Post’s Jerry Markon, are retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly and Frances Townsend.

Kelly, who served as the chief of U.S. Southern Command until his retirement this year, “opposed the administration’s failed plans to close Guantanamo and has strongly defended how the military treats detainees, telling the Washington Post in 2014 that criticism of their treatment by human rights groups and others was ‘foolishness.’” Kelly met with Trump and President-elect Mike Pence on Sunday. Townsend was Homeland Security Adviser to President George W. Bush.

Other DHS prospects we’ve hear mentioned: Congressman Michael McCaul, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. More from the Post here.