Maryland governor renews call for additional H-2B visas for crab houses

Maryland officials are stepping up their efforts to help crab houses in the state get the workers they need to remain viable.

Earlier this week, Governor Larry Hogan sent a letter to Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia asking them to lift the cap on H-2B visas the country issues.

The H-2B visa program allows companies in non-agricultural industries to fill temporary positions with immigrant labor. Seafood operators, like Maryland’s crab picking houses, use the program to fill positions it says it cannot fill otherwise.

In his letter, Hogan said houses located in Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore region may not be able to open this season or have limited operations if they are unable to obtain the 500 visas they need.

“Another year of hardship could permanently damage Maryland’s sustainable seafood industry, causing these iconic family and small businesses to close or constrict, which would have a devastating impact on commerce and jobs, particularly in economic disadvantaged areas of the state,” Hogan stated in his letter dated Tuesday, 21 January.

Hogan said each visa a crab house receives helps create more than 2.5 jobs for American workers. His letter comes two weeks after members of the Dorchester County Council in Maryland sent a letter calling for more visas to be released. That request came from seafood industry businesses in the coastal county.

The governor also called on the Trump administration officials to work with his state’s congressional delegation to make long-term changes to a program where, annually, officials from Maryland and other seafood industry states have requested lifting the cap.

Last year, the U.S. expanded the program by an additional 30,000 visas, after officials, including Hogan, made requests.

The U.S. currently caps the number of visas at 66,000 per year. That amount is divided equally for each half of the fiscal year, which starts on 1 October. On 15 November, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services announced the first-half cap had been reached.

Photo courtesy of L. Kragt Bakker/Shutterstock


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