Tom Broadwater

Tom Broadwater,

Americans4Work

President Trump recently suspended nearly all guest-worker programs for the rest of the year. This historic executive order will open up more than 500,000 jobs to Americans -- and it will mainly help black citizens.

These reforms aren’t mere rhetoric. They’re tangible proof that Donald Trump believes Black workers matter.

The order could not have come at a better time. About 45 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began. The crisis is disproportionately hurting minorities and other vulnerable workers. The unemployment rate in May for those with only a 

high school diploma was 15.3% compared with just 7.4% for college graduates. The unemployment rate for Hispanics was 40% higher than for whites.  That gap was 30% for blacks.

Those disparities are likely to remain in the coming months. Recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown could take years. The percentage of working-age people in the labor force -- those working or looking for work -- is still well below what it was before the Great Recession.

To reduce pressure on jobseekers, the Trump administration stopped issuing green cards, which give lifetime work privileges to permanent immigrants, to individuals not already in the United States in April. But until June 22, the president hadn’t stopped his administration from processing up to 1 million temporary guest-worker visas that corporations use to hire foreign laborers for at least 7% less pay than Americans.

By suspending these guest-worker programs, President Trump rejected the demands of Big Business and stood up for the forgotten men and women that politicians in both parties have ignored for decades.

The United States hands out 1 million green cards a year. On top of that, every year we admit about 750,000 guest workers who we are told are necessary to do jobs Americans won’t. However, that isn’t true. These guest workers displace Americans and drive down wages for all workers in those occupations.

In 2019, 188,000 foreign workers came to the United States on H-1B visas -- and mostly took entry-level tech jobs. That same year 98,000 came on H-2B visas to take construction, landscaping, and other manual-labor jobs. An unlimited number can come on H-2A farmworker visas. Almost 150,000 found employment through the OPT program, which allows foreigners who graduate from U.S. colleges stay and work for up to three years. 

The influx of foreign labor depresses Americans’ wages, according to more than a dozen studies reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. And less-advantaged Americans, particularly minorities, suffer the biggest losses in earnings because they compete most directly with foreigners.

Even prior to the pandemic, minority communities struggled with higher rates of unemployment. The black jobless rate last year was twice as high as the white unemployment rate in 14 states, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

This chronic joblessness causes poverty, which in turn affects everything from social mobility to the quality of public schools.

President Trump stood up for Black and Hispanic Americans by suspending guest-worker visas. 

At a time of record unemployment, there’s simply no reason to import guest workers for jobs that Americans are able and willing to do.

 

Tom Broadwater is president of Americans4Work, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates on behalf of American minority, veteran, youth, and disabled workers. This piece originally ran in the Washington Times.