President Biden’s decision last week to protect 470,000 Venezuelans from deportation is another consequence of his mismanagement of the country’s ongoing migrant crisis.
At least it has the benefit of consistency too: Biden’s latest migrant policies are a master class in how to exacerbate the many problems behind his poor poll numbers.
Buried among them is the White House’s recent sabotage of the H-2A and H-2B visa programs — which help employers legally recruit seasonal workers, such as farm-hands. and landscapers.
Although largely unknown beyond labor circles, visas have a huge impact on the overall economy.
H-2A workers, for example, represent a full 10% of America’s agricultural labor force.
And in New York State alone, more than 16,000 H-2 visas were granted between October 2021 and September 2022.
Used for decades, the visas are needed to get migrant workers into New York’s rural communities desperate for short-term work.
Instead, the rules and fees added by Biden have made visas more difficult to secure – pushing more migrants who opt for the asylum system to stay in the US.
The result: New Yorkers subsidize the migrant’s expenses and labor vacancies remain unfilled.
Neglecting important seasonal labor programs is an act of political and political malpractice. As makeshift migrant camps close to breaking ground in Manhattan, countless small and rural businesses struggle to fill job openings several hundred miles away.
Those vacancies come at a cost. According to the Heritage Foundation, the nation’s ongoing labor shortage is one of the biggest contributors to the headline-making inflation that has hurt Biden’s approval numbers.
Many of the migrants now flocking to New York would be happy to work – if only they could get the all-important H2 visa. Instead, asylum became the only immediate alternative.
As their cases flow through the system, asylum seekers face a 180-day ban on legal work, further ensuring their reliance on local services.
The costs here are crippling; so Mayor Adams tried to send migrants to upstate communities – and sued county governments that refused to accept them.
It’s not that local people are inherently anti-migrant.
After all, many of those same farm towns have long relied on the H-2 visas that Biden blocked.
They prefer only those new arrivals who become legal visa holders over asylum seekers, who arrive unemployed.
So countless migrants remain unemployed in New York City, while economically depressed areas of the state continue to suffer from job shortages.
Under Biden’s new rules, upstate farmers still using the H-2A program could lose thousands of dollars next season. Additional legal costs along with triple paperwork and mandatory employee tracking systems are just some of the new costs.
Even before the new visa rule, farmers were already paying more than $10,000 for each worker brought in from abroad.
Under this latest regulation, 65% of employers report that they will no longer be able to afford agricultural visas this year.
Large farms tend to pass the costs on to consumers while many of their smaller counterparts inevitably close — because US workers often refuse to fill farm roles.
The result: Households that already pay more than 30% of their disposable income on food and groceries will see costs rise even further.
Biden isn’t just piling up unnecessary red tape on H-2 programs.
He also raised visa fees for employers by more than 130% to pay for new asylum applications.
Ironically to the core, the increases will especially hurt New York employers who rely on H-2B for jobs like landscaping and hospitality.
Because so many H-2B employers are small businesses, the fee hike will trigger a vicious cycle where businesses are priced out of work visas, migrants fail to find legal sponsors and the asylum claims continue to snowball – with their costs to the city.
As asylum claims outnumber work visas, migrants only drain local coffers. That’s why Biden should reverse course and fast track H2 visa processes.
Businesses in the US – especially in New York – really need access to it.
As for migrants, the less incentive they have to claim asylum, the more likely they are to come as legal workers.
This will reduce costs for small businesses while fighting inflation that keeps goods and services out of reach.
Biden could address two major political problems – inflation, and overcrowding at our southern borders – by making H-2 visas truly attainable. Illegal migration will decrease, replaced by migration that is orderly, fair and benefits local tax bases.
Fixing these problems could not be more obvious for businesses struggling to fill jobs and stay afloat (Spoiler alert: This does not include more arbitrary concessions for Venezuelans or any other group) .
So why does the solution – like so many things these days – appear to have eluded the President?
Daniel Garza is the founder and president of The LIBRE Initiative; Sam Peak is a senior policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity