The Obama administration published a rule on Monday that would let more non-U.S. workers compete for American jobs than officials initially estimated.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would expand U.S. work opportunities for non-U.S. citizens by allowing the spouses of certain skilled foreign workers to also seek employment.
Officials estimated that this change would allow 100,000 non-citizens to seek work in the U.S. immediately, and would let roughly 30,000 spouses seek work authorization annually.
But in the rule published Monday, DHS said the annual number of people seeking work authorization will be closer to 36,000.
“DHS estimates the flow of new H-4 spouses that would be eligible to apply for initial employment authorization in subsequent years to be 35,900 annually,” the rule stated.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, blasted last week’s DHS announcement, and accused President Barack Obama of essentially proposing a jobs plan for non-citizens at a time when millions of American citizens are unemployed.
“It is good news for citizens in other countries who will be hired,” Sessions said. “But for struggling Americans, it will only reduce wages, lower job opportunities, and make it harder to scrape by.”
The announcement prompted Sessions to ask, “Who does the administration represent?”
Sessions’ communication director, Stephen Miller, said DHS’s new annual estimate of non-citizens who could seek work authorization is “quite a bit bigger” than the original estimate.
“This will hurt thousands of additional American workers,” Miller said.
Last week, Miller criticized Obama for tweaking the employment rules in a way that will help high-tech companies, and then going to a fundraiser seeking campaign money from these same companies.
In the Monday rule, DHS defended the decision to expand work opportunities for H-1B spouses by saying not allowing spouses to work gives these skilled workers an incentive to return to their home country.
“The lack of employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses often gives rise to personal and economic hardship for the families of H-1B nonimmigrants the longer they remain in the United States,” the rule stated.
“DHS believes that this proposal would further encourage H-1B skilled workers to remain in the United States, continue contributing to the U.S. economy, and not abandon their efforts to become lawful permanent residents, to the detriment of their U.S. employer, because their H-4 nonimmigrant spouses are unable to obtain work authorization.”
DHS is accepting comments on the new rule through July 11.