Obama squeezes U.S. workers in visa vise, grants work permits to spouses of foreign visa holders

Obama squeezes U.S. workers in visa vise, grants work permits to spouses of foreign visa holders

The Department of Homeland Security is granting work permits to certain spouses of foreign visa holders in the United States — even as the number of immigrants is increasing twice as fast as jobs are being created.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director León Rodríguez, the new policy will take effect May 26 for spouses of H-1B (high-skilled) visa holders who are seeking permanent resident status in the country. The policy stems from President Obama’s immigration executive order last year. said Rodríguez:

Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense. It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.

USCIS said as many as 179,600 people may benefit from the new rule in the first year of implementation and about 55,000 annually in succeeding years.

The 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act allows H-1B non-immigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.

The Department of Homeland Security said the new rule will reduce the economic burdens and personal stresses of H-1B visa holders and their families while their papers are processed.

Maheash Bajoria, an immigration attorney in Fremont, Calif., said more should be done to accommodate foreign workers and their families.

It would have been better if the rules permitted new non-immigrants coming under H4 visas to work in the U.S. However, this is a breakthrough and a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the administration will further relax the rules and permit the new H4 spouses coming to the U.S to fulfill their dreams get an opportunity to work in the U.S and cater to the U.S economy at the same time.

While tech companies such as Microsoft and Google have long lobbied for more foreign employees, critics say the administration has gone too far already. Watchdog.org reported that a 2001 National Research Council study, commissioned by Congress, found underpayment of H1-B visa holders is an industrywide practice. Economists predict adding foreign spouses to the U.S. workforce at a time of historically low labor participation rates will further depress wages in other sectors and crowd out more American workers.

Debunking the notion that there are not enough Americans to fill tech jobs, the Center for Immigration Studies found 1.2 million native-born citizens with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degrees are either unemployed or out of the labor force. Total STEM employment in 2012 was 5.3 million, but there are 12.1 million STEM degree holders. Amid a continuing wave of foreign arrivals, STEM wages (adjusted for inflation) grew a paltry 0.4 percent a year from 2000 to 2012.

As for the economy at large, the government’s own data show only 9.3 million U.S. jobs were created over the period that 18 million immigrants (legal and illegal) arrived in the country.

According to Steven Camarota, CIS’ director of research:

Policymakers continue to falsely claim a labor shortage and to disregard the long-term absorption capacity of the U.S. labor market, which has profound implications for American workers.

If immigration is the great job creator for natives that advocates argue, the record number of new arrivals in the last 14 years should have created a jobs bonanza for natives. Instead, job growth did not come close to matching new immigration and natural population increase; and the labor force participation of natives shows a long-term decline, even before the Great Recession.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”

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