Ruling finalized on additional H-2B visas, DHS wants Congress to act

Published on
May 7, 2019

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump on announced on Monday, 6 May, it will publish a ruling that paves the way for 30,000 foreign workers to receive H-2B visas through the end of the fiscal year. Now, they want Congress to take action to expand the program.

According to the Federal Register, the ruling – a joint document between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor – will be published on Wednesday, 8 May.

The visas allow foreign nationals to come into the United States and work temporary jobs, and are widely used in the seafood industry for seasonal processor positions. However, the industry competes with other businesses, such as resorts and landscaping companies, to get the permits. 

According to State Department data, 83,774 H-2B workers came into the country in the 2018 fiscal year. That’s an increase of 174 from the previous year. 

The administration announced in late March it would allow the additional visas beyond the 33,000 initially slotted for the final six months of the fiscal year. Officials earmarked the 30,000 for workers who previously received a visa in the last three years. Another 33,000 were made available during the first six months of the fiscal year. Typically, the number of H-2B visas is set at 66,000, split between the two halves of the year.  

However, many industry leaders have said while the move helps, more visas are still needed to meet demand. In a statement, Acting Homeland Security Director Kevin McAleenan said his agency isn’t the one that should be making that decision.

“The truth is that Congress is in the best position to establish the appropriate number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming U.S. workers,” he said. “Therefore, Congress – not DHS – should be responsible for determining whether the annual numerical limitations for H-2B workers set by Congress need to be modified and by how much, and for setting parameters to ensure that enough workers are available to meet employers’ temporary needs throughout the year.”

While some lawmakers and elected officials have signaled their support for such an expansion, the visa program does have its share of critics.

“Too much cheap foreign labor artificially suppresses wages and takes jobs from Americans,”  U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said in a tweet. “The number of H-2B visas for low-skilled, non-agricultural labor has nearly doubled since 2009.”

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