9 December 2015, Public Radio International
In the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, the national debate has shifted toward the US visa waiver program, which allows visitors from 38 participating countries to easily enter the United States for stays of less than 90 days.
But every year, 150,000 foreign workers enter the US legally through a different channel — the H-2 visa program. Under this guest worker program, employers may hire unskilled foreign workers when no qualified Americans can or will do the job.
Though the H-2 visa program provides a legal path to employment, a new BuzzFeed News investigation suggests that US employers enlist a variety of questionable tactics to use the system to their advantage — and to the detriment of domestic and foreign workers alike.
For example, US employers looking to use the H-2 visa program are required to make good-faith efforts to employ Americans, but many use deceptive tricks to ensure their desired outcome.
“We had companies, for example, that needed jobs in North Dakota and placed ads for those workers not in North Dakota, but in Iowa,” says Jessica Garrison, the co-author of the BuzzFeed piece, “All You Americans Are Fired.”
She continues: “We had companies that said they needed housekeepers with a month of experience and then told the government, ‘We didn’t get any applicants that had a month of experience.’ But when the government followed up, they talked to these people who had applied for these jobs and were turned away from them, and [the applicants] said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have 20 years of experience as a housekeeper.’ But they weren’t hired.”
Additionally, Garrison’s report finds that many US workers have been fired or pushed out of positions to make way for guest workers that will accept considerably less pay and benefits, and tolerate less desirable work conditions.