How Team Trump Brought Down the Temporary Work Visa System on January 1

Trump at today's negotiating session.

With all the immigration news focused on Donald Trump’s demand that the Federal government shut down unless he gets funding for a border wall, you may have missed a cyberspace shutdown at the Department of Labor. On January 1, 2019 the online system for submitting employer applications for Temporary Workers (H-2b Visas) shut down only five minutes after the system began accepting applications for these visas. These applications go through both the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security for the visas allowing for the admission of Temporary Workers.

The crash of this website illustrates several revealing facts. First, there is a large demand for workers that employers say is not being met. As the national unemployment rate dipped to 4%, seasonal employers are struggling to find workers. Nearly 100,000 applications for H-2b Visas were filed in just five minutes while the system was still (briefly) working on New Year’s Day.

Second, while Donald Trump once bragged that no one knew the H-2b Visa system better than he did, the Trump people’s administration of the system helped cause the collapse. When they announced that visas would be allocated on a “first-come, first-served” basis, they made midnight submissions of applications the only way employers could have a chance of being awarded a visa. With only 33,000 Temporary Worker Visas available, the Labor Department informed employers that it would log applications in by the millisecond. An application filed at one second after midnight would likely win a visa, while one filed a couple of minutes later would be too late. With this sort of selection system, is it any wonder that immigration lawyers set their computers to all file at the stroke of midnight?

Team Trump has introduced many changes into the immigration system, most of which backfire in the worst ways. Even when they are not actively trying to harm immigrants, their incompetence is overwhelming.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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