The Department of Homeland Security suspended its issuance of nonimmigrant guest worker visas on Thursday, one day after Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson criticized the program.
Also on Thursday, the Department of Labor said weekly unemployment claims jumped to 6.6 million.
“To clear up various misreporting – DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances,” Homeland Security said in a tweet just after noon Thursday. “No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice. Per the statute, H-2B allocations are set in consultation with @USDOL.”
To clear up various misreporting – DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice. Per the statute, H-2B allocations are set in consultation with @USDOL.
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) April 2, 2020
In a segment earlier in the week, Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” excoriated the DHS for issuing the visas amid the economic slowdown which has resulted from coronavirus prevention measures.
“Today, on April 1, the Department of Homeland Security released 20,000 new H-2B Visas for seasonal guest workers to come into America and take jobs in industries like landscaping, food processing and resorts,” Carlson said. “Another 15,000 visas will become available next month in May.”
“We’re facing a global calamity that could wreck our economy, fracture our society. The time to placate corporate interests looking for low wages at all costs has passed. We need to stop this.”
The H-2B visas are intended for temporary, nonagricultural foreign workers who are granted entry on a one-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent basis. Congress statutorily permits 66,000 per year. However, Congress also has allowed DHS to add as many as 64,000 beyond that.
The Trump administration announced on March 5 that it was increasing the seasonal H-2B visas issued by 35,000, 20,000 on April 1 and another 15,000 on May 15.
Jobless claims have soared in the past two weeks following state, local and federal guidelines and orders intended to stem the spread of COVID-19 that have mandated non-essential business close or limit their operations.
Many restaurants, bars and other service establishments are prohibited from opening except for takeout or deliveries.
Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, the most timely data on the economy’s health, reinforced economists’ views that the longest employment boom in U.S. history probably ended in March.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits surged 3.341 million to a seasonally adjusted 6.648 million for the week ended March 28, the government said. Data for the prior week was revised to show 24,000 more applications received than previously reported, lifting the number to 3.307 million.