U.S. allows more seasonal workers as Trump vows to "hire American"

The Trump administration said Monday that it is providing an additional 15,000 visas for foreign workers, despite the president's calls to hire U.S. workers first.

The temporary visas had previously been capped at 66,000 for the fiscal year.

Kelly did recognize that some workers "are victimized when they come up here, in terms of what they're paid".

In May, Congress gave DHS Secretary John Kelly the authority to boost the number of H-2B visas for the rest of the fiscal year.

Congress set the maximum number of H-2B visas to be issued at 66,000 for the fiscal year, which ends September 30.

Skilled foreign non-agricultural workers on H-2B visas are used widely in the tourism industry, as well as industries as wide-ranging as horse racing, meat packing and landscaping.

President Donald Trump uses the H-2B visa program to staff his Florida private club, where he has hosted visiting heads of state since his inauguration in January. Most backstretch workers are hired for longer periods of time than seasonal workers sought by industries such as seafood processing and hospitality.

The real estate magnate-turned-president relied heavily on seasonal workers at his hotels and resorts, and campaigned on promises to restore American jobs. The extra visas will be available to companies that can show that their businesses would be harmed if they can't temporarily hire foreigner workers. The H.R. 2004 bill, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in April, would exclude returning workers from being counted toward the yearly cap.

The Trump administration has expanded the meaning of "America First" to include foreign workers willing to take on low-skill work.

Advocates also say that foreign guest workers often experience sub-standard working conditions that are harmful to their health.

DHS said the limited number of 15,000 was based on an exemption from the cap on the H-2B visas a year ago and that DHS and the Labor Department believe it will satisfy businesses' labor needs.

Congress paved the way to increasing the number of H-2B workers in May when it passed an omnibus budget to avoid a government shutdown.

During a call with reporters, a senior DHS official said the additional visas "absolutely" fits in with Trump's campaign promise to put America first.

In order to qualify for the additional visas, businesses must attest under penalty of perjury that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm if they can't employ H-2B workers for the rest of the year.

But not everyone agrees, including Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which lobbies to keep immigration levels low in the United States.

Vanessa Coleman

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