House members protest COVID-19 vaccine requirements for H-2A workers |

House members protest COVID-19 vaccine requirements for H-2A workers

A bipartisan coalition of House members led by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., wrote Homeland Security Department Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week that the Biden administration’s new policy requiring that essential travelers to the United States be vaccinated against COVID-19 will cause delays for newly recruited workers to enter the country or make it impossible for them to enter.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, H-2A employers have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and wellness of their H-2A employees by providing personal protective equipment, on-demand COVID-19 testing, and standing up on-farm COVID-19 vaccination clinics,” the House members wrote.

“As a result, a significant percentage of H-2A employees were vaccinated while they were in the U.S. last year, including 95 percent of H-2A employees in Washington state. Most of those vaccinated workers will return.

“However, growth in the number of H-2A employees coming to the United States, coupled with the need to replace employees who leave through general attrition, means that the number of employees who are either unvaccinated or have received unapproved vaccines will be substantial. Some of the new H-2A employees are already scheduled to arrive in the U.S. with future arrivals in the coming days and weeks.

“We believe the safety of Americans and those coming to this country for work is paramount and support these efforts by H-2A employers. Unfortunately, the rule by DHS threatens to delay the arrival of some employees in an industry where even a few days delay in performing critical time-sensitive tasks can affect the size and quality of the crop. At worst, this rule will prevent these employees from being able to travel to the U.S. to work at all this season — due to lack of access to an approved vaccine versus lack of will to get vaccinated.”

The letter asks DHS to allow H-2A employers to vaccinate employees upon arrival and work with industry to offer vaccination clinics at U.S. embassies and consular offices in the employee’s home country.


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