DHS to add 20,000 guest worker visas for seasonal jobs

Homeland Security said Monday it will add 20,000 new slots to a seasonal guest worker program this winter, including thousands of visas reserved for people from countries responsible for much of the wave of illegal immigrants.

Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said as the country grapples with the pandemic, businesses are struggling to hire Americans and need a dedicated source of foreign workers to fill vacancies.

The H-2B program is used by seasonal non-farm workers for jobs in places such as ski or beach resorts, amusement parks, seafood processing plants and maintenance companies. lawns. Employers must certify that they have tried to find American workers at competitive wages before seeking H-2B visas to fill positions.

Congress caps the program at 66,000 visas per year, half to be distributed in winter and the other in summer. But in recent years, lawmakers have also given Homeland Security and the Department of Labor the power to add more visas when needed.

Mr. Mayorkas said there is a need.

“At a time of record employment growth, additional H-2B visas will help fuel our country’s historic economic recovery,” he said.

The Trump administration has steadily added more visas during the summer season, and the Biden team made 22,000 visas available in April for the summer season.

But companies complained that these moves arrived so late in the year that they made planning impossible. Landscaping companies have said they have to give up customers and quit because they don’t have enough workers.

This year marks the first time that an administration has added more visas during the winter season.

Homeland Security said 13,500 of the slots would be reserved for “return workers” or people who had been granted an H-2B visa in one of the past three years. The other 6,500 are reserved for people from Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, who make up a large part of the current influx of illegal immigrants to the border.

Business groups applauded the move but said it was not enough.

The US Travel Association said the travel and hospitality industries alone have 1.8 million vacancies and Homeland Security needs to find more visas.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports tighter immigration limits, said the increase would force unemployed Americans to fight for jobs.

“President Biden often presents himself as a ‘working class’ man who supports American workers, but his administration continues to do the opposite,” said RJ Hauman, director of government relations at FAIR.

He said the H-2B program “is rife with abuse”.

In an example from Maryland, a seafood and ice cream company hired H-2B workers for low-paying jobs, but gave them roles that should have required a higher pay. This decision deprived Americans of the opportunity to do these higher-paying jobs.

The company, Captain Phip’s, used at least 142 H-2B visa workers from 2013 to 2018, although investigators could not determine exactly how many of them cheated.

Captain Phip’s also employed illegal immigrants, several of whom had been arrested and facing deportation proceedings, but were released pending their cases. The owner of the business has said in court documents that he believes they could continue working.

Source link