The Trump Administration Wants an Immigrant Underclass


In two recent reports, Trump administration advisors Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller outlined seemingly contradictory plans for the country’s already-barbaric immigration policies. Put broadly: Kushner wants more legal immigration; Miller wants less illegal immigration, but also fewer immigrants living in the U.S. legally.

Here’s Miller, speaking to the Daily Caller (of course):

Miller noted that the White House is “systematically reviewing all authorities that are already on the books, both in terms of cracking down on illegal immigration and […] the abuse of our legal immigration system.” The targeted abuse actions include illegal immigrants who overstay temporary visas, “combatting or addressing legal benefit seeking in the legal immigration system.”

And here’s what Kushner wants to do, per Politicos reporting:

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been working for months on a proposal that could increase the number of low- and high-skilled workers admitted to the country annually, four people involved in the discussions told POLITICO.
The low-profile effort to allow more legal immigrants into the U.S. cuts a stark contrast to Trump’s increasingly dramatic efforts to curb illegal immigration, an issue he speaks about daily and describes as a national crisis. But Trump himself has publicly said he also supports higher levels of legal immigration, a priority generally supported by a business community short on skilled workers.

It is possible, in fact, for both of these immigration plans to align. Politico frames Miller’s vindictive policies as a foil to the Kushner plan, but despite Miller’s manic desire to round up everyone with brown skin, there’s plenty of room in his general framework of immigration policy for what Kushner—and Trump—want. So what is that?

Broadly speaking, Trump and Kushner’s push for an expansion to legal immigration is designed to create one thing: a hardworking underclass of both low-skilled and highly skilled immigrants shuttled into the country on restrictive visas that actively prevent them from progressing toward citizenship while costing their employers less than hiring actual Americans. (Businesses love this of course—as Politico notes, the Koch brothers are two of the biggest proponents of this kind of legal immigration). And guess what? It’s working!

The bits of the legal immigration system that the Trump administration usually supports expanding are the H-1B and H-2B visa systems, which, generally speaking, let U.S. companies hire foreign workers for various jobs. Tech workers recruited from other countries are often on H-1B visas (which require the recipient to have a college degree); H-2B workers are temporary or seasonal employees in non-agricultural jobs (farm workers use the H-2A visa).

The H-2B system, which the Trump administration just expanded by 30,000, is particularly monstrous.

Here’s Daniel Costa at the Economic Policy Institute:

H-2B workers are in effect, captive, because their visa status is controlled by their employer—which means that if an H-2B worker isn’t paid the wage he or she was promised, or is forced to work in an unsafe workplace—the worker has little incentive to speak up or complain to the authorities. Complaining can result in getting fired, which leads to becoming undocumented and possibly deported. It also means not being able to earn back the money that was invested in order to get the job.

H-1B workers are typically skilled, as justification for that visa requires a company to prove they’re in a “specialized occupation,” but they’re similarly held captive by tying their immigration status to their employer. It’s bad enough that losing your job in this country can mean you lose health insurance, but for many immigrants living here legally, getting fired can also mean getting immediately ejected from the country.

But as Politico notes, Kushner’s plan for more legal immigration comes with a catch. Because you know who doesn’t fit into this plan? Families, because kids and spouses of workers aren’t as good for business as the workers themselves (bolding mine):

Kushner’s plan may not lead to a net increase in legal immigration. He is being urged to offset his increases with reductions in other forms of legal immigration. An expansion in the number of legal immigrants allowed into the U.S. for work could be tied to reductions in the number of immigrants sponsored by family members or immigrants who are awarded green cards through the diversity visa lottery program, according to the four people involved in the discussions.

This is the future that big business wants for America: the ability to hire workers with the least advantages possible, for the least amount of money, while cracking down on all the other ways people come to America pursuing their dreams.

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