Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and Sen. Jim Risch swam against the Republican current last week when they called on President Trump to oppose a move to restrict temporary visas for workers coming to the U.S. The move was logical, but not laudable.
Their letter responded to Republican colleagues who had called on the president to suspend new guest worker visas because unemployed Americans need the jobs. Those Republicans want some visas suspended until employment levels rise from their current Great Depression levels.
That would be sensible if the impacts on the ground were not severe. In Idaho and the Northwest, it would mean that cows wouldn’t get milked, many crops wouldn’t get harvested and food products might become scarce.
It would mean that many long-term health care facilities would have difficulty finding enough workers. Landscaping companies, restaurants and lodges would find it difficult to operate.
Crapo and Risch were two of just nine senators who signed a letter to the president urging him not to change the visa programs that supply foreign workers for the agriculture, forestry and hospitality industries.
They argued that temporary workers would not deprive Americans of jobs because worker shortages exist in some areas and many permanent workers don’t want the kinds of jobs filled by temporary workers. They failed to note that such jobs more often than not require heavy manual labor, pay little and offer few or no benefits.
They were not championing workers or jobs with good pay and benefits. Instead, they were representing corporations that need cheap labor that they cannot attract even with the Idaho unemployment rate at 12 percent and 102,975 people out of work.
The senators were not arguing for worker protections or higher wages. Just the opposite. They advocated protection of the bottom lines of companies that exploit people with less education and fewer options than most Americans.
The senators’ position is not just less than laudable, it’s reprehensible.