With so much media focused on the accelerating border emergency, another immigration-related development has gone largely unnoticed – President Joe Biden’s commitment to admit more employment-based visa holders into the still-tight U.S. labor market.
At the border, Biden’s team shows no interest in slowing the influx of Northern Triangle aliens who know they can turn themselves in to immigration officials and soon be on their way into the U.S. interior. Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended a 20-year record high 168,000 foreign nationals, a total that included 19,000 minors. Biden deftly handed Vice President Kamala Harris the responsibility of bringing the border chaos under control. But Harris has responsibility avoidance skills equal to Biden’s.
Since being delegated the White House’s go-to border person, Harris has traveled to Middletown, Connecticut, where she explored the state’s former juvenile detention center as a possible migrant housing facility. She also traveled to Los Angeles and Chicago, but not to McAllen, Texas, a crisis point in the border fiasco. Neither Biden nor Harris have announced future plans to journey South.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., in a move that will harm already struggling U.S. workers, Biden allowed former President Donald Trump’s temporary pause on some employment visas to expire on March 31. Effective April 1, tech workers – most notably H-1Bs, F-1 visa holders that may be enrolled in Optional Practical Training work-study programs and seasonal hospitality workers – will once again be able to enter the U.S. to compete with, or displace, American workers. The Trump administration issued the ban to protect Americans’ employment opportunities for those who, because of the coronavirus-related furloughs or firings, lost their jobs.
Also on April 1, USCIS announced that the agency would no longer automatically reject incomplete asylum or immigration benefit applications even though it’s unlawful to process them. When USCIS accepts a partially blank form, it violates legal requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations. From the USCIS policy manual: “In order for USCIS to accept a benefit request, a submission must satisfy all applicable acceptance criteria.” The no-blank-space guideline was put into place in October 2019 to deter widespread immigration fraud, a safeguard the Biden administration is unconcerned about.
The following day, April 2, the State Department announced that visa hopefuls previously denied because of Trump’s freeze could reapply by submitting a new application. Visa applicants not interviewed earlier will have their applications prioritized. Similar to his practice with the developing border turmoil, Biden had no comment on his administration’s relaxed revisions.
Ending Trump’s visa pause and accepting watered-down asylum applications help prospective asylees and a wide range of industries that profit from an expanded labor pool. In addition to the asylees who will now have virtually an unobstructed path to work permission and affirmative benefits, other winners are Silicon Valley, landscapers, resort and restaurant owners and families who hire au pairs. The Chamber of Commerce, longtime advocates for more cheap labor, and immigration lawyers also come out ahead under Biden’s more expansive and permissive immigration views. The American Immigration Lawyers Association and more than 100 trade associations and immigration advocacy groups wrote a letter to Biden which demanded that the president reverse Trump’s temporary ban. By complying, Biden is facilitating a wealth transfer from U.S. labor to U.S. industry.
Whether looked at from the border perspective or from an interior jobs market viewpoint, nothing Biden has done during his administration’s early days helps average U.S. citizens. Biden’s ending of Trump’s employment-based visa ban is hard to justify in light of his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan that he claims will, along with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, create 19 million jobs. In no sane world is it logical to import high- and low-skilled workers, as Biden has authorized, while millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and at the same time advocate for spending $4.2 trillion – the rescue and jobs bills’ total cost – to create jobs.
For a president who has long embraced the myth that he’s just “plain folk” – old Blue-Collar Joe, the working man’s friend – his actions contradict his image.