GOP lawmakers urge Trump not to halt H-2B visa workers
Groups of Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate wrote to U.S. President Donald Trump this week urging his administration to exclude temporary visa programs, such as the H-2B visas, from efforts to curb immigration.
The letters, reported by Law360.com and TheHill.com, come a couple weeks after the Department of Homeland Security announced it would not bump up the total of H-2B visas, which permit nonimmigrant laborers to work in seasonal positions. Seafood processors, along with landscaping companies and seasonal resorts, are the primary industries that use the visa program.
Their requests also come as other in the Republican Party have expressed concern about foreign worker programs.
Some conservatives have called on the administration to draw a hard line on all visa programs. Earlier this month, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) cited the high unemployment figures due to the COVID-19 pandemic in requesting a 60-day suspension on all guest worker programs.
“For many high school graduates and college students, they will spend the next few weeks at home making tough decisions about delaying or foregoing college this fall due to their limited family resources," Cruz, Cotton, Grassley, and Hawley wrote in a joint letter to Trump penned earlier in May. “There is no reason why these young people, especially, should not have access to seasonal, nonagricultural work such as summer resort employment or landscaping before those positions are given to imported foreign labor under the H-2B program.”
However, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) said there are specific industries that rely on foreign labor for non-permanent positions. Harris, whose Eastern Shore district includes several crab processors, was among 42 House lawmakers to sign the letter.
"In my district, we have seafood processing and the tourism industry," Harris told Law360. "H-2B workers do jobs that American workers simply don't do. The businesses certainly advertise for the jobs and pay more than minimum wage, but they simply can't attract the workers. To be honest, these are seasonal jobs, and the goal for American workers is to get full-time jobs."
The second half of the 2020 fiscal year began in April. DHS allocated 33,000 visas for the six-month period, and Harris said there were more than 100,000 applications for those positions.
The Hill reported that Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mike Rounds (South Dakota), Todd Young (Indiana), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), and James Lankford (Oklahoma) sent a similar letter to Trump.
“Some of these struggling small businesses rely on labor that many Americans may not be qualified or able to perform, even in the aftermath of the pandemic, and some of these businesses operate in industry sectors that are not experiencing high unemployment – in contrast with the overall national unemployment figures – or in particular geographical locations where qualified labor is scarce,” the senators noted in their letter.
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