According to a Wyoming Office of Tourism report, travel-generated jobs in 2017 accounted for 20 percent of the total employment in Park County. In 2018, travel spending totaled over $460 million. …
According to a Wyoming Office of Tourism report, travel-generated jobs in 2017 accounted for 20 percent of the total employment in Park County. In 2018, travel spending totaled over $460 million. Tourism is big business here.
Hotels and restaurants that serve travelers coming to Park County thrive on this influx of economic activity. One of the biggest challenges these businesses face is finding enough people to fill their seasonal positions.
Every year, they compete for a very small pool of foreign, temporary visa workers on a first come, first served basis. One of the federal requirements of the visa program is the applying businesses must advertise positions to Americans first, but these businesses report they almost never get American applicants. Not only is the county’s population too small to fill all the seasonal positions that come open, Americans tend to pursue other jobs.
American entrepreneurialism has always thrived on the freedom to do business without interference from government. It’s a value conservatives generally hold.
“What part of legal immigration don’t you understand?” is often the bumper-sticker slogan of people who oppose immigration. Yet, these visa workers are legal immigrants. They are the kind of law-abiding, tax-paying immigrants we should welcome into this country.
In May, the Department of Homeland Security and Labor Department increased the cap on unskilled, temporary visas to 96,000 for the year, which is the highest in a dozen years. While this was a move in the right direction, the federal government received 30 times more applications for these visa workers this year compared with last. The federally limited supply is just not meeting the demand, and it’s hurting businesses.
This past April, President Donald Trump said, while standing on the US-Mexican border in California, “Our country is full.” While the president was speaking in reference to a wave of immigrants intending to enter the country illegally, based on his support for a number of reforms that limit legal immigration, he doesn’t seem to always make a distinction between legal and illegal immigration.
The increased cap on low-skilled visa workers was met with opposition from a number of Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who insisted the increase would negatively impact wages of American workers by flooding the market with cheap competition.
Economists have studied the issue and rarely found any meaningful negative impact on Americans’ wages. One Harvard study found a negative impact of less than 5 percent on the wages of high school dropouts. Other studies found positive impacts on the same group.
Whatever the case, supporters of the free market understand the value competition brings to consumers. Employers are consumers of labor, and competition brings benefits to the labor market for the same reason it brings it to any other.
In the debate on immigration, the left is often more concerned with what’s good for immigrants. But there is a small-government argument for making it easier for businesses to recruit foreign workers legally. When businesses can’t fill open positions due to onerous federal regulations, conservatives should be concerned.