Few economists would assert that America has a shortage of unskilled labor. Yet every year, employers are permitted to import tens of thousands of unskilled guestworkers to fill jobs the employers claim no Americans want – jobs they claim are temporary or seasonal.

A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, ‘Dirty Work: In-Sourcing American Jobs with H-2B Guestworkers,’ by CIS Fellow and retired Foreign Service Officer David Seminara, explores the H-2B guestworker program, which is for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural work. This paper aims to shed light on the poor conditions that H-2B guestworkers often toil in; to expose the damage it does to the most vulnerable sector of American workers: the poorly educated, students, minorities, and legal immigrants; to examine the recruiters who find workers and the employers who hire them; and to scrutinize the government’s role in sanctioning and managing the H-2B bureaucracy.

Among the findings:

* The popularity of the H-2B program soared from just 15,706 visas issued in 1997 to an all-time high of 129,547 in 2007. Issuances dropped to 44,847 in 2009, as Congress declined to renew a temporary expansion passed in 2005.

* Despite the global economic crisis, demand for H-2B guestworkers remains strong, even in areas with high unemployment rates. American companies filed petitions to request nearly 300,000 H-2B workers in FY 2008. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce listed expanding the H-2B program as one of its ‘Policy Priorities for 2009.’

* The H-2B program was originally intended to help employers needing seasonal and/or temporary workers, but the majority of the program’s current users are neither small nor seasonal employers, but rather mid- to large-sized companies and recruiters that petition for H-2Bs to work for 10 months out of the year, year after year.

* Many of the businesses filing H-2B petitions for foreign workers are ‘body shops’ that have no actual ‘seasonal or temporary’ need for labor and instead rent workers out to other firms.

* Despite credible allegations and even convictions for fraud and abuse of both H-2B workers and the program in general, neither the Department of Labor nor the Department of Homeland Security has ever barred a U.S. company from filing H-2B petitions. Some repeat offenders continue to have their petitions approved to this day.

* Economists have found no evidence of a labor shortage in the occupational groups that constitute the bulk of H-2B employment.

The report is online here

The above is a press release from from Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076. Email: center@cis.org. Contact: Bryan Griffith, (202) 466-8185, press@cis.org