Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, a longtime ally of the president, took a swipe at the White House for issuing tens of thousands of more temporary worker visas.
“Our immigration system should prioritize the needs of U.S. citizens over cheap foreign labor. Allowing an additional 30,000 seasonal workers into the country forces Americans to compete for jobs against non-citizens who drag down wages,” Cotton said in a Monday statement.
The Republican senator’s scathing statement follows news that the Trump administration will allow an additional 30,000 seasonal foreign workers enter the U.S. through September. The work visas, known as H-2Bs, will primarily benefit fisheries, oyster shucking companies, seasonal hotels and loggers.
The seasonal visas are intended to bring in people who perform jobs that don’t typically attract American workers. White House officials cautioned that the foreign nationals — all of whom would be returning workers — will go through a background check and are trusted not to remain in the U.S. past their visa due date.
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The criticism is indicative of the situation the Trump administration is under with the strong U.S. economy.
The economy grew at an annualized pace of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019, blowing past experts’ expectations, according to data from the Department of Commerce (DOC) released in April. The unemployment rate is now at its lowest rate in nearly 50 years. The situation, however, has made it more difficult for employers to find workers to fill the new jobs.
Seasonal visas have been capped at 66,000 per budget year, and lawmakers from both parties believe the number should rise to accommodate growing businesses. Immigration hardliners such as Cotton argue that protecting American workers’ wages should remain a priority of the administration.
“We should be setting immigration policies that support wage growth and employment for Americans instead of encouraging a race to the bottom by importing low-cost labor,” Cotton continued in his statement.
Immigration reform remains a top priority of President Donald Trump. His administration has rolled out a number of initiatives to clamp down on illegal immigration at the southern border and has requested from Congress $4.5 billion in emergency funds to deal with the crisis. Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser, has been working on a reform package that would cut down on low-skilled migrants in favor of high-skilled workers.
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