Congress, Trump Administration Reverse Course on H-2B Following Labor Shortage

June 23, 2017

Signaling a potential softening of the Trump administration's stance on immigration policy, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has decided to increase the number of H-2B seasonal work visas.  The decision was prompted by a labor shortage placing certain hotels, restaurants, and landscapers that normally rely on H-2B workers in economic distress.  However, relief will not come until late July, when the first of the additional visas will be issued.  Employers who rely on the visa for seasonal workers have expressed its importance despite its administrative challenges and costs, with one employer saying, "I'm always going to hire American first.  I'm always going to hire someone locally first.  We're not using this program because it's easy.  It's not.  It's very difficult and expensive, but we're using it because we have no other options."  Meanwhile, data suggests a similar dynamic regarding the H-1B visa.  A new study on the H-1B program found "a 1 percentage point increase in the foreign STEM share of a city's total employment increased the wage growth of native college-educated labor by about 7–8 percentage points and the wage growth of non-college-educated natives by 3–4 percentage points," while having "insignificant effects on the employment of those two groups."