A provision slipped into the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill could more than triple the amount of H-2B visas allowed for foreign workers coming into the United States, sparking outrage from conservatives and labor unions alike.
"These foreign workers are brought in exclusively to fill blue collar, non-farm jobs in hotels, restaurants construction, truck driving, and many other occupations sought by millions of Americans," Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday, reports The Hill.
"The GOP-led Congress is about to deliver Obama a four-fold increase to one of the most controversial foreign worker programs," the Alabama lawmaker continued. "The result? Higher unemployment and lower wages for Americans."
Lawmakers discovered the provision Wednesday morning. Sessions estimated that the number of H-2B visas would rise from 66,000 to 250,000 as a result, and complained on the Senate floor Wednesday about the plan.
Chris Chmielenski, a spokesman for NumbersUSA, which calls for reduced immigration levels, said House Speaker Paul Ryan allowed the provision to slip in even after promising to support American workers in his first speech as speaker.
"H-2B visas are for low-skilled foreign workers who typically compete with people who have a high school diploma or less, and these are the people who are struggling the most," said Chmielenski, whose group plans to fight to get the language removed.
However, a House aide told The Hill that the Judiciary Committee wrote the provision, and that Ryan was not involved. Further, the aide said, Ryan never promised not to touch programs related to immigration, but instead to keep major legislation from moving.
The AFL-CIO and the International Labor Working Group, meanwhile, say the provision could exploit both foreign workers and Americans who are losing their jobs, by rolling back protections for workers.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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