Thad Cochran, Roger Wicker, Steven Palazzo, and Gregg Harper voted to support the GOP Establishment Budget.
This afternoon President Trump signed the omnibus spending bill that has so angered a great many conservatives across the country, and rightfully so. We know that it did not fund Trump’s border wall, while fully funding sanctuary cities. But on other immigration matters, the bill was equally infuriating.
Politico highlighted several policies that were hidden within the bill, at least two of which related to immigration:
More immigrant workers. The bill quietly increases the number of non-agricultural guest workers who can receive a temporary visa to work in the U.S. The visa program, known as H-2B, is officially capped at 66,000 visas per year—but the spending bill enables the Trump administration to effectively double the number available this year, allowing as many as 69,000 additional visas to workers in 2017. The actual legislative language is confusingly written and immigration lawyers struggled at first to interpret it—to critics, an indication that appropriators wanted to sneak the changes into the bill with little fanfare. (It’s what they did in last year’s spending bill as well, which allowed workers who came to the U.S. in 2013, 2014 or 2015 to return in a later year and not count against the H-2B cap.)
Boosting the cap from 66,000 to 135,000 would please the business community and infuriate many labor activists and anti-immigration hard-liners who have long argued that businesses exploit the H-2B program to undercut American workers. It may never happen—the authority to expand the program lies with the secretary of homeland security, and it’s hard to imagine the administration throwing open the door to tens of thousands of new foreign workers. But the president now has that power.
More visas for Afghans. The bill also increases by 2,500 the number of “special immigrant visas” available for Afghan interpreters who helped the U.S. military in Afghanistan. This refugee program is strongly supported by military hawks like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who argue that the visas are critical for U.S. national security. Without them, they argue, the U.S. will face a shortage of interpreters, who will fear they will be targeted for helping the U.S. armed forces. Recently, as Trump has warned about the threats within U.S. immigration and refugee programs, the “special immigrant visa” program has come under attack on Capitol Hill and almost wasn’t renewed at the end of last year.
The more we find out what’s in this spending bill, now that both house of Congress have passed it and the President has signed it into law, the more distasteful it becomes, thus further proving the Republican Establishment to be as bad as Democrats.