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  • GOP Readies Bill To Expand ‘Seasonal’ Guest Worker Program

    House and Senate Republicans are working on legislation that would dramatically expand a guest worker program, allowing businesses to bring in three times the number of low-skilled guest workers from abroad.

    Businesses use the H-2B visa program to hire low-skilled foreign workers for temporary non-farm jobs in restaurants, hotels, resorts, even trucking companies. The recently introduced legislation would effectively quadruple the annual cap on these guest workers, allowing hundreds of thousands more foreign workers into the U.S. job market. (RELATED: Once Again Foreign Born Jobs Are Up, U.S.-Born Jobs Down)

    The bill would bypass the current annual cap of 66,000 by exempting workers admitted on the visa in any of the three previous years from the cap. These foreigners work in occupations including cooking, hospitality, construction and maintenance for as little as three months and many as three years on the visa.

    Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, said the bill will be bad for American workers and urged Republicans not to move the bill by attaching it to larger bills, such as the inevitable mega-spending bill Congress must pass this year.

    “Flooding this loose labor market with additional low-skilled labor hurts the wages and reduces the job prospects of those who are recent immigrants and native-born who are struggling the most,” Sessions wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. (RELATED: Obama’s Economy In 9 Charts)

    Rep. Paul Ryan pledged not to bring any immigration legislation to the House floor for a vote as Speaker of the House while Obama is president, unless it has the support of a majority of a majority of Republicans. His office did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding this bill.

    Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and Thom Tillis joined Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Barbara Mikulski to introduce the bill in the Senate, and Republican Reps. Steve Chabot, Bob Goodlatte, Andy Harris and Charles Boustany introduced its companion bill in the House.

    The current cap is “inadequate to meet the existing demand” for temporary labor and leaves businesses “out in the cold and scrambling” to find American workers, Chabot said in a statement introducing the bill.

    Added Tillis in a statement on the Senate version: “Across North Carolina and the country, seasonal employers have been unfairly facing bureaucratic barriers through the H-2B program, to the point where they are not even sure if they can continue to stay in business.”

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