Dreary March BLS Report Should Motivate Trump to Get Busy on his Promise to Reduce Immigration

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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 7, 2017

The March Bureau of Labor Statistics report is surely not what President Trump wished for. The economy added a measly 98,000 jobs, the lowest total since May 2016.

Making a bad report worse, January and February totals were revised downward, 38,000 fewer jobs than previously announced. The official unemployment rate dropped from 4.7 percent to 4.5 percent, meaning that because so few jobs were created, fewer people looked for them. The labor force participation rate, 63 percent, has remained mostly unchanged for months. It’s estimated that more than 90 million people are detached from the labor force.

Fewer “guest” workers would mean
more American jobs.

In light of the disastrous March BLS data and as part of his promised swamp draining, President Trump should turn his attention to the unwieldy, job-killing, foreign-born guest worker visa maze. Guest worker, employment-based visas of which there are many – mostly issued under the public radar, and all of which need immediate and substantial reforms – are a form of legal but temporary entry for overseas workers.

A new Economic Policy Institute report estimates that during fiscal 2013, the latest available data, 1.42 million guest workers were employed in the United States, either for part or all of the year. Researchers criticized the federal government for collecting inadequate, poor-quality data, inconsistently recorded, and largely kept out of the public eye.

Federal information about guest workers classified according to their individual visas was, inexplicably, unavailable. Singled out by EPI because they are among the most frequently issued employment-based temporary visas were the H-1B, the J-1 and the L visa. Over the years, CAPS has been critical of all three because the visas applications are often fraud-riddled, and the holders end up doing jobs unemployed or under-employed Americans can do. The Center for Immigration Studies found that in December 2014, for every new job created, two immigrants arrived. Job creation lags significantly behind legal and illegal immigrant arrivals and population growth.

EPI took direct aim at Congress for failing to understand “the size, scope, and economic impact of temporary foreign worker programs.” Parenthetic observation: since it might harm their political futures, Congress may have little interest in exposing the full “scope” of guest worker visas, and their effect on American workers.

The report’s authors made several suggestions for non-immigrant visa reform that have merits: improve record keeping; issue public reports that include information about employers, locations and jobs performed, and create an advisory commission staffed with experts to provide Congress with a detailed analysis of the impact of non-immigrants visas on the American labor market.

EPI’s recommendations are fine as far as they go. But the Trump administration’s goal should be to reduce the number of guest workers across the spectrum; 1.43 million foreign workers in a single year is a huge total. Except in extreme cases, employment-based visas are unnecessary and harmful to U.S. workers, especially the most vulnerable. Also overlooked by EPI is that Congress must pass entry/exit legislation that would ensure that foreign nationals return home when their temporary visas expire. Entry/exit has been stalled in Congress for 30 years, a disgraceful failure to act.

With President Trump’s election, Americans voted to end illegal immigration, and to sharply reduce legal immigration. Go to the CAPS Action Alert page here to tell your representatives that you want lower legal immigration levels because fewer permanent residents and non-immigrant visas will mean more American jobs.
 

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