An immigration watchdog is applauding lawmakers who are calling for President Donald Trump to suspend guest worker visas while millions of Americans are unemployed and looking for work.
Republican senators sent a letter to the White House urging the president to suspend all non-immigrant guest worker visas for 60 days, with exceptions for agriculture and other critical industry visas.
Mirroring their counterparts, House Republicans sent their own letter calling on Trump to suspend those guest worker programs until the current Great Depression-like unemployment rate returns to pre-coronavirus levels.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says it should be obvious to anyone paying attention why there is a push to halt the guest worker program.
“We've lost about 30-million plus jobs over the past six weeks. You have obviously millions and millions of newly unemployed Americans,” he points out. “The last thing we need right now is a massive guest worker program when jobs are disappearing at just an alarming rate."
Political observers credit Trump’s get-tough rhetoric on illegal immigration for winning over voters and putting him in the White House, but the issue of legal immigration is another matter, especially for back-breaking farm labor.
“They’ve been there for years and years," Trump, speaking to reporters in April, said of those immigrant farmworkers. "And I’ve given the commitment to the farmers: They’re going to continue to come or we’re not going to have any farmers.”
Before making those remarks, President Trump used Twitter to make the surprise announcement that he planned to "temporarily suspend immigration" but the White House was not prepared to offer details about what that plan would look like.
The New York Post, among other news outlets, reported in late April that President Trump was backtracking from his American-workers-first rhetoric that promised to pause the guest worker program on behalf of job seekers.
Mehlman says the executive order that was eventually issued by the President failed to protect American workers.
“It temporarily suspended a few immigration visas,” he recalls, “but it did absolutely nothing to protect American workers. And he needs to go back and he needs to fix that."
The push by GOP lawmakers is helpful, Mehlman adds, but Trump is also being pushed by what he calls the “cheap labor business lobby.”