Coming Soon: New Category of Work-Authorized Immigrants

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

April 19, 2014

Here’s a great example of how federal immigration policy subtly but effectively undermines American workers. In a mostly under-the-radar discussion, the Department of Homeland Security is considering granting work permits to some spouses of H-1B visa holders who have filed for an extension after their initial three-year term expires. Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 receive H-4 visas when they come to the U.S.

Previously, H-4 regulations allowed spouses to study, open bank accounts and drive. They were, however, prohibited from working unless they successfully filed a change-of-status application to switch from H-4 to a visa category that permits employment.

Sanctioning H-1B spouses to work was a feature of the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Border Security bill, S.744, that passed last June. The Senate argued that spousal work permits would make the H-1B visa more appealing to overseas workers, as if it isn’t attractive enough already. But the new DHS proposal could add more than 50,000 prospective workers annually to an economy that is already overloaded with 20 million unemployed or underemployed Americans. And while the H-1B visa holder is allegedly high-skilled, the spouse may not have abilities beyond what unemployed Americans could offer, given the chance. Vulnerable Americans with a high school diploma or less would have a new layer of competition to overcome in their job searches.

In short, if H-4s become employment authorized, it’s good for the H-1B visa holder, and the spouse. But, because it expands the labor pool, it’s bad for unemployed Americans who should have priority over foreign-born workers.

Please go to the CAPS’ Action Alert page here to tell Congress to support American workers.

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