Biden admin considering rule change to allow temporary migrant workers to seek permanent residency

February 21, 2023
Ben Marquis

During a time of rampant economic uncertainty and weak labor force participation rates for working-age U.S. citizens, President Joe Biden's administration is considering action to make it even harder for job-seeking Americans to find gainful employment.

The administration is working on a rule change that would allow foreign workers with explicitly temporary H-2A and H-2B work visas to apply for and receive permanent residency and eventual citizenship, Breitbart reported.

H-2A agricultural visas and H-2B non-agricultural visas allow U.S. companies to hire low-skill foreign workers on a temporary or seasonal basis, often at lower wages than U.S. citizens would receive, and have been shown to displace some job-seeking Americans from the labor market.

Temporary visa programs would no longer be temporary

Fox News reported exclusively last week that the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was considering a proposed rule change that would essentially abolish the explicitly temporary nature of the H-2A and H-2B work visa programs, ostensibly to "modernize and reform" those programs and protect foreign workers from abuse and exploitation.

Under the current rule, workers who apply for such "nonimmigrant" visas must declare their intent to not seek permanent residency and return to their home countries once the temporary or seasonal work is done, and they are not allowed to begin working until their application is approved.

According to a summary of the proposed rule change obtained by Fox News, however, the new rule "also proposes to provide increased flexibility for H-2 workers by extending grace periods, and allowing H-2 workers to take steps toward becoming permanent residents of the United States without being deemed to have abandoned their nonimmigrant intent or their foreign residence solely on that basis."

It would also allow those foreign workers to begin work immediately as soon as their application for a visa was received by USCIS, even if they are eventually determined to be ineligible or are rejected.

A spokesperson for USCIS told Fox News that the agency is "committed to promoting policies and procedures that break down barriers in the immigration system, increase access to eligible immigration benefits, enhance protections for temporary nonimmigrant workers, and better ensure the integrity of the H-2A and H-2B programs, and the agency will continue to uphold America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve."

Biden working toward "the detriment of American workers"

The Federation for American Immigration Reform reported that this proposed rule change by the Biden administration would completely contradict and undermine the explicitly temporary nature of the H-2 work visas as outlined in the statute passed by Congress to authorize the programs.

The organization warned against the allowance for "dual intent" for guest workers -- to both return home after a job is complete but also seek permanent residency -- based upon how such a change for H-1B visas for high-skilled workers has been egregiously exploited by migrants seeking any path to legal residency and U.S. companies seeking low-wage foreign labor.

"The clear desire of foreign nationals to get an H-1B visa -- primarily because it can lead to permanent residence -- has encouraged unscrupulous outsourcing practices while reinforcing employers’ dependency on cheap foreign labor," FAIR President Dan Stein told Fox News. "By morphing two additional guest worker programs into de facto permanent immigration streams, the Biden administration is doing so at the detriment of American workers, even during a time of economic uncertainty."

Worker replacement already ongoing

Meanwhile, Breitbart reported separately on a recent analysis that the already ongoing flood of foreign workers into the U.S. labor market under President Biden -- which this proposed rule change would worsen -- had displaced nearly two million working-age U.S. citizens from the labor pool and replaced them with more than two million new foreign workers.

That analysis came from the Center for Immigration Studies, which compared the labor force participation rate from 2019 to 2022 and found that approximately 1.9 million fewer working-age U.S. citizens were actually working, while over that same time period, more than two million new foreign guest workers had been granted visas to be employed by U.S. companies.

It is through this and other sleights of hand by the Biden administration that the president can misleadingly claim that unemployment rates are down and jobs are booming even as more working-age American citizens than ever before are out of work and not gainfully employed.

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