Huge H-2B coalition asks Trump administration to expedite visas
A huge coalition of employers of H-2B temporary immigrant workers in landscaping, forestry, conservation, seafood processing and other essential non-agricultural services asked the Trump administration late Monday to allow H-2B workers already in the country to change employers and to make it easier for others to enter the country.
“At a time when many American businesses are shuttered and millions of people are confined to their homes in an effort to fight the pandemic, we ask for your assistance in helping to ensure those businesses that are able to continue to operate have the necessary labor to do so,” the coalition asked, noting that many full time year round American workers depend on H-2B workers fill the support jobs that make the higher paying jobs possible.
The coalition’s members include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Hort, the American Seafood Jobs Alliance, the American Sugar Cane League and various forestry groups, as well as hotel, restaurant and other hospitality industry groups.
In a letter to Homeland Security Department Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, the coalition noted that the administration had eased the circumstances for H-2A temporary agricultural workers and said that H-2B workers “should receive similar treatment.”
“As many coalition members also employ H-2A workers, we very much appreciate the efforts by the State Department and DHS to prioritize H-2A petitions and workers,” the letter said.
“We believe DHS and USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) should take similar actions to also ensure prompt processing of H-2B petitions. USCIS should also ensure prompt access to unused visas by capped out employers who have a continued need and should allow prompt transfer of H-2 workers already in the country to both approved and capped out H-2 employers.”
The letter also said, “In the event economic activity rebounds swiftly, as the president has assured, and the certified need for H-2B workers is realized, (the Trump administration should) quickly allocate supplemental visas to those employers with previously approved petitions that voluntarily transferred their workers to a fellow employer in need or underutilized the visa positions approved.
“If USCIS does not resume prompt adjudication of H-2B petitions and reallocate unused visas, many businesses that need seasonal H-2B workers to supplement their U.S. workforce will be dramatically understaffed and would suffer irreparable economic harm.”
Earlier this year the Trump administration signaled it was going to increase the number of H-2B visas this year, but pulled back on that plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump said late Monday he would sign an executive order to ban all immigration due to the coronavirus pandemic and to protect American jobs, but it was unclear how broad that would be.
As The Washington Post said, “It was not immediately clear what Trump was referring to or whether such an order would be possible.”
Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and 80 of his colleagues last week introduced the Protect Farmers from the SEC Act.