Sen. Mike Lee’s S.386 green card giveaway to India’s U.S.-based workers has created a new opponent: dairy farmers who fear his bill will kill their ability to recruit and reward long-serving dairy workers with U.S. green cards.
The result is that South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds will block Lee’s next attempt to pass his giveaway to India via the Senate’s Unanimous Consent rule, which is expected next week.
“He is planning to object to a U.C.,” a Hill source told Breitbart News, if Lee cannot “address Senator Rounds’ concerns about dairy farms in South Dakota.”
Rounds admitted his concerns in a December 4 constituent letter, saying Lee’s S.386 might “disadvantage green card allocation for certain industries that are vitally important in South Dakota and across the country.”
“I don’t care why they block it, as long as they block it,” said Rosemary Jenks, the policy director at the NumbersUSA reform group. “It would be good if Rounds did something useful,” she added.
The concern among dairy state Senators is building, in part, because Lee is repeatedly trying to pass his bill by using the Senate’s ‘Unaininous Consent’ rule. The rule allows a bill to pass unless any other Senator publicly disagrees on the Senate floor. So far, Lee has been repeatedly blocked by Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin — who may soon lift his opposition, according to several sources.
The UC process is used mostly for uncontroversial or popular bills. Few Senators use the rule to push unpopular legislation because it forces other Senators to state their quiet opposition publicly, and damages the quiet collegiality which helps dealmaking.
But Sen. Lee is aggressively using the rule to push his S.386 bill to aid Utah’s business interests. He claims his bill has unanimous support among GOP Senators but is ignoring concerns from multiple GOP Senators, including those who fear Lee’s legislation will block the inflow of Latino migrants to Florida, and will also push more American graduates out of good jobs. Multiple sources say Lee’s bill is creating home-state problems for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Missouri’s Sen. Josh Hawley, and Tenn. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, as well as for GOP Senators in dairy states, including the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.
The S.386 bill aids high-tech investors by allowing Indian visa workers to grab all of the 120,000 green cards annually allocated to foreign employees of U.S. companies. The removal of the so-called “country caps” would allow companies to steer nearly all of the green cards to India’s visa workers for the next several years.
Roughly 200,000 Indians are in a long backlog for green cards. The backlog was caused when the Indians contracted with U.S. employers to take U.S. technology jobs — usually at low wages — from almost one million American graduates in exchange for green cards.
Lee’s bill would allow U.S. companies to pay off their Indian workforce with fast-track green cards. But it would also encourage many more Indian graduates to take jobs from many American graduates by getting work permits via the fraud-ridden and uncapped H-1B, L-1, and OPT programs.
Lee’s plan is designed to help Utah build its version of Silicon Valley, dubbed “Silicon Slopes.” The plan rests on the Utah-located satellite office of New York-based Goldman Sachs and California-based Adobe System, which is run by Shantanu Narayen, who is an Indian immigrant.
Narayan is a leading advocate for the vast U.S.-India Outsourcing Economy, which sidelines many U.S. graduates by exporting U.S. jobs to India-based workers and many of India’s workers into U.S.-based jobs. The push is backed by the state’s governor, Gary Herbert, partly because Inda’s workers help to spike the value of Utah’s real estate.
GOP Sen. Mike Lee is again pushing his #S386 bill to reward 300K Indian graduates for taking college jobs from American graduates. GOP Senators stay quiet & Dems say Lee should reward more foreign grads. Estb. media is silent. Truly bizarre. https://t.co/oghLQIAmy0
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) October 31, 2019
Lee has already made deals with Sen. David Perdue from Georgia and Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky.
The multiplying groups of college-graduate, Twitter-using. activists who oppose S.386 have shown how Lee uses India’s workforce in the United States to pressure Perdue, Paul, and Sen. Dick Durbin to submit to deals. India’s pressure tactics include repeated claims that Durbin is racist and hates Indians, despite Durbin’s repeated advocacy for mass migration from many countries into the United States. India’s government is also lobbying for Lee’s bill, partly by offering easier access to India’s consumer market for U.S. companies who back the S.386 bill.
But Lee’s plan is a direct threat to dairy state politicians because it would make it far more difficult to recruit and retain skilled Mexican dairy workers via the TN visa programs. Lee’s plan would put 300,000 Indians at the head of the line for green cards, so preventing the dairy industry from getting green cards for its long-serving TN foreign workers for at least six years.
The importance of green cards to the dairy industry was spotlighted in 2018 by MilkBusiness.com:
On a frozen Iowa morning, Juan Pablo Jimenez crosses the yard at Jones Dairy. He’s headed into the herdsman’s office to check in with the employees he helps manage. Ten years ago, in his native Mexico, life looked much different. Growing up on a small dairy there, Jimenez has always loved dairy cows. That’s what prompted him to continue his education and go to veterinary school in Mexico. Because of his degree, Jimenez is allowed to work in the U.S. on a TN visa, a nonimmigrant visa that’s growing in popularity among dairies. The TN visa is the result of the North American Free Trade Agreement which was signed into law in 1993. Citizens of Canada and Mexico qualify for the work visa if they are working in a professional position— including doctors, lawyers and animal scientists—and hold a relevant degree or license.
There is no cap on the number of TN visas that can be given to Mexicans, nor are there any wage rules:
There is no wage requirement for the TN visa, Fortier says. “The nice thing for employers is that they have complete flexibility in wages and benefits for these workers,” she explains. “Obviously, federal and state minimum wage laws apply but there’s no separate minimum wage rule.” While in Minnesota, Jimenez was paid $9 per hour plus overtime: A low wage for a veterinarian, but more than he would make in Mexico. After one year in Minnesota, Jimenez went back to Mexico to work as a veterinarian. During his time in Mexico he married and decided to look for a job position in the U.S. Like many TN workers, Jimenez saw an online advertisement for a recruiting company seeking TN workers to interview in Guadalajara.
But the dairy business is tough, and skilled workers gradually face more pressure from their families to find better jobs and to get green cards:
“In addition, they provided me good housing near the dairy.” Unlike the H2A visa program, employers aren’t required to provide housing for TN workers, which Fortier says adds to it’s flexibility. At first, Jimenez enjoyed his job in Texas. While there, he worked in the maternity area, bred cows, gave treatments and helped move cows. Then things started to change. “We were paid by salary but we worked more than 60 hours weekly,” he says. “Once a week I had to shovel the bad feed, and every 14 days I had to work one night in the night shift.” Jimenez says the loader they were forced to drive had no brakes and some days they didn’t take lunch. “One day I was forced to work 24 continuous hours without going home,” he says. “After that I made the decision to quit.”
Many dairy farms have thousands of cows, which need round-the-clock, year-round care by large staffs, most of whom are illegal. The U.S. government does nothing to help American dairies switch from cheap migrant labor to labor-saving robot milkers, partly because farmers are used to working with the disposable and cheap visa workers.
A December 2019 article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “U.S. farms recruit Mexican veterinarians to work as animal scientists — then use them as milkers.”
As U.S. dairy farms struggle to find low-cost workers, some are using the special visa program to lure Mexican veterinarians and engineers with offers of high-skilled jobs, but then assign them to clean barns or other menial tasks — circumventing the visa rules for work requiring a college degree.
Through a review of court filings, sworn depositions, offer letters, visas and interviews, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel identified 23 Mexican university graduates who were hired by dairy and other animal farms through the program, but quickly were assigned tasks that do not require a college degree. The real number is likely vastly higher.
In theory, the TN visa program offers a relatively easy way to fill farm jobs, but with one big problem: The program is only for high-skilled jobs, and most dairy jobs don’t fit that definition. So farms are bending — even ignoring — the definition, and rolling their general hires under the “animal scientist” classification, or as “breeders.” Both are among the 63 approved professions on the TN visa list.
A November article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
Reliable numbers on [illegal migrants] working in the dairy industry are hard to come by. The best known Wisconsin survey, taken more than a decade ago, estimated the hired [illegal] immigrant workforce at more than 40% of the total. The best known national survey, taken five years ago for the National Milk Producers Federation, estimated it at 51%.
Talk to workers in Wisconsin, and they express little doubt [illegal migrants] account for a larger portion of the dairy industry workforce today. And they don’t just work on the biggest farms, but also on operations that grew their herd beyond what a family can handle.
The article also showed how one migrant who arrived in 1997 worked his way up to manager, to citizen, and co-owner:
[Omar] Guerrero, now a citizen and settled with his family in the U.S., started out as an undocumented immigrant, working as a milker, one of the toughest jobs on a dairy farm. At Drake Dairy, he learned more about the operation, took on new responsibilities and moved into management. Now he has a stake in the farm.
Lee’s bill would block other Mexicans from following Guerrero’s example, so denying dairy farms access to a core of long-term, skilled workers and managers.
Round’s December 4 letter showed those concerns.
One obvious fix for the various business groups would be a bill that dramatically expands the 140,000 number of green cards that can be awarded by companies each year. But that proposal is risky for the GOP because it would expand the inflow of Democratic-voting immigrants, push many American graduates out of jobs and careers, and also poison the GOP’s chances of winning college-graduate votes in 2020. In fact, the current allocation of 140,000 green-cards to foreign employees played a large role in flipping Virginia into an all-blue state.
Lee might try to cut a deal with the dairy-state senators, just as he cut a deal with Perdue and Paul over imported nurses. But each side-deal invites more objections from other groups, such as Florida employers, university presidents, and immigration lawyers who win green cards for sports stars.
On December 11, the House passed a bill that would allow the dairy industry to employ H-2A visa-workers year-round, and to recruit and retain foreign workers with the award of 40,000 green-cards (and citizenships) per year. But the benefits for the dairy industry have little chance of passing before 2021, in part, because the Democrats have packaged the farm aid with a fraud-prone amnesty for at least 1 million illegal farmworker migrants.
Democrats (& 34 GOPs) vote to subsidize the agriculture companies & investors with a huge amnesty-for-visa-worker swap.
The amnestied 1M+ illegals will be replaced by a flood of cheaper H-2A workers, who will cut farming wages & replace many Americans. https://t.co/eD7dKONcEP
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) December 12, 2019
The estimated percentage of farmworkers who are foreigners ranges from 25 percent to 80 percent, depending on which advocacy group is counting what slice of the workforce.
But the dairy industry needs subsidized workers because it cannot compete on the open market for American labor, partly because the dairy farms produce so much milk that the commodity price has crashed to low levels. North Dakota’s GOP Rep. Kelly Armstrong said in a November hearing that North Dakota’s farmers need the imported H-2A workers because:
A really good thing for the rest of the state is we have 20,000-plus [open] jobs, and those jobs are in the oil patch or in construction, They’re in the service industry, they are in lots of these different issues, all of which can pay over-market prices … [causing] North Dakota farmers and ranchers to run into situations where they can’t compete in a true labor market, which is where the H-2A program and legal ag[riculture]-labor immigration comes into play … We can compete in the ag-labor market. What we cannot do is compete against other industries for that labor.
During debate over HR 5038 — Farm Amnesty bill — @RepLaMalfa says illegal aliens GOOD, American workers LAZY pic.twitter.com/Zd2ikGFj5o
— NumbersUSA (@NumbersUSA) December 11, 2019
Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC, or email the author at NMunro@Breitbart.com