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Migrant labor shortage shakes pro-Trump small biz

A man watches a TV screen showing file

A man watches a TV screen showing file footage of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday. Photo Credit: AP / Ahn Young-joon

Not cutting it

Eddie Devine voted for Donald Trump because he thought he would be good for his Kentucky landscaping company. Now, he says, “I feel so stupid,” because administration restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may sink the business.

It’s a complaint echoed by crab processors in Maryland, innkeepers and lobster restaurants in Maine and Texas shrimpers who couldn’t get enough workers under the H2-B visa “guest worker” program for nonagricultural workers.

East End farmers also are stymied by “a tremendous shortage of labor for low-skilled jobs,” said Long Island Farm Bureau president Karl Novak in a recent discussion of immigration policy with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), according to Riverhead Local.

Even before unemployment hit a 17-year low, Devine said he couldn’t find enough dependable, drug-free U.S. workers. He relied on H2-B for seasonal help, mostly from Guatemala. Recently, he lost a $100,000 account for lack of manpower.

The visas were awarded by lottery for the first time this year instead of first-come, first-served. Crab houses in Maryland that weren’t lucky are idle. Local economies are suffering. “The Mexican labor creates jobs for Americans. It’s creating my job,” fisherman Burl Lewis, who sells bait to crabbers, told The Wall Street Journal.

Homeland Security plans to issue 15,000 more H2-B visas, but some businesses say by the time eligible migrants could make the trek north, it will be too late.

ZTE, phone home

Given Trump’s constant complaints about China stealing American jobs — and administration warnings to foreign businesses to abide by tougher U.S. sanctions against Iran — this tweet from the president Sunday morning came as a surprise:

“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

ZTE, which has close ties to the Chinese government, was forced to pay a $1.19 billion penalty last year for violating U.S. sanctions prohibiting the sale of telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea.

Last month, Commerce charged ZTE had failed to reprimand the employees who were responsible and banned shipments of U.S. technology to ZTE for seven years. That could put the company out of business.

U.S. intelligence officials have also warned ZTE equipment poses a cybersecurity threat. See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Kim Jong Un Inc. in your 401(k)?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States is prepared to welcome U.S. investment in North Korea’s economy if a denuclearization deal with Kim Jong Un goes through.

“This will be Americans coming in, private-sector Americans, not the U.S. taxpayer, private-sector Americans coming in to help build out the energy grid . . . to work with them to develop infrastructure, all the things the North Korean people need,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Bolton, on ABC’s “This Week,” said “The prospect for North Korea is to become a normal nation, to behave and interact with the rest of the world the way that South Korea does.” See the story for Newsday by Figueroa and David M. Schwartz.

The fire this time 

Thousands of Palestinian protesters gathered along the border with Israel Monday, drawing Israeli gunfire in a bloody showdown that threatened to cast a shadow over Israel's festive inauguration of the new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem, The Associated Press reports.

A total of 28 Gazans were reported killed, according to the Times of Israel.

Fans of the symbolic shift of the embassy's locale from Tel Aviv celebrated over the weekend. Trump sent daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner to mark the occasion, timed with the 70th anniversary of the nation's independence.

The couple received a blessing from Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yithak Yosef -- who was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League of B'Nai Brith earlier this year for racist remarks.

 A Dallas-based pastor, Robert Jeffress, told Fox News he will lead a prayer at the ceremony. But some expressed alarm -- noting his past comments such as "you can't be saved by being a Jew" and that Mormonism and Islam are heresies from hell.

Janison: Victory lapse

In some bigly ways, last week was a good one for Trump: A time and place for next month’s summit with Jim Jong Un got nailed down, and North Korea freed three U.S. citizens it had held prisoner.

So of course Trump had to overdo it, saying, “We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people.” They were three Americans who never should have been held in the first place.

His White House also had a fresh set of stumbles, including leaked word of a staffer’s tasteless “he’s dying anyway” crack about Sen. John McCain. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Not Mueller time yet, Rudy says

Rudy Giuliani said he doesn’t expect a decision on whether Trump will answer questions from special counsel Robert Mueller until after the June 12 summit with Kim in Singapore.

“I wouldn’t want to take his concentration off something far, far more important,” the voice of the president’s personal legal team told The Associated Press.

Mom’s the word

Trump paid tribute to his late mom, Mary MacLeod Trump, in a Mother’s Day video on his Twitter account. “So much of what I’ve done and so much of what I’ve become is because of my mother. I miss her a lot,” he said.

The video doesn’t mention first lady Melania Trump, the mother of the couple’s 12-year-old son, Barron. As he often does on Sundays, Trump spent much of the morning and afternoon playing golf at his Sterling, Virginia, club. The first lady separately sent out a “Happy Mother’s Day!” tweet with a photo of pale pink roses.

What else is happening:

  • As if to reassure supporters after his ZTE tweet, Trump was back on Twitter hours later to say he is still pressing China for a trade deal “that benefits both countries. But be cool, it will all work out!”
  • The Education Department under Secretary Betsy DeVos is unwinding the investigative team that looked for fraud and other abuses by for-profit colleges, The New York Times reports. The team is supervised by a former executive at a college that was the target of a since-halted probe.
  • Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders angrily scolded her communications team for leaking staffer Kelly Sadler’s heartless remark about McCain. Sadler promised the senator’s daughter Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly, but didn’t, CNN reported.
  • Axios spoke to White House leakers about why they leak so much. Among the reasons: personal vendettas, wanting an accurate record to be known and getting a last word out after losing a policy debate. One leaker gives quotes that mimics other staffers’ speaking style because “that throws the scent off me.”
  • An Israeli soccer team Sunday changed its name from the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club to the Beitar Trump Jerusalem football club to honor the president for moving the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv.
  • Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are shopping for a permanent home in Washington, Politico reports. They aren’t happy with their $15,000-a-month six-bedroom rental, the report said.

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