NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 29, 2008

The size and scale of recent raids conducted by federal agents to root out undocumented immigrants demonstrates that Congress authorizes too few visas for foreign workers, far fewer than the number employers want and need to keep their businesses running, says Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Hudson Institute.

With a 5 percent national unemployment rate, the basic economic truth is that, in some sectors, employer demand for foreign workers exceeds the number that Congress, pressured by unions, will admit, says Furchtgott-Roth:

  • By law, the government may issue 66,000 H-2B unskilled worker visas.
  • In 2006, the United States admitted 97,279 H-2B visa holders, according to new legislation which did not make visa requests from prior holders of visas count against the limit of 66,000.
  • However, Congress failed to renew this law, which means that in 2008 there are fewer visas available for people who have not previously been admitted.

Last week, the U.S. Labor Department took a step toward modernizing the unskilled-visa process by proposing new rules.  Under their proposed regulations, an employer would apply for the H-2B unskilled-worker visa only to the Labor Department, rather than having to apply to both the state workforce agency and then the Labor Department. 

The Labor Department's streamlined process would be of greater use if Congress were to increase the number of unskilled visas available, says Furchtgott-Roth.  Similar problems exist with the number of skilled-worker visas, or H-1B visas. 

  • The government accepts 65,000 H-1B visas each year.
  • In 2007, this quota was met the very first day applications were accepted, when over 150,000 visa applications poured in.

If the Labor Department determines a foreign worker -- either skilled or unskilled -- will not displace American workers, that person should not be barred from entering this country by arbitrary quota restrictions, says Furchtgott-Roth. 

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "Desperately Seeking Visas," Hudson Institute, May 28, 2008.

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