WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Angus King (I-ME) sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Congressional Leadership urging them to provide a meaningful solution for the H-2B temporary guest worker program in any government funding agreement.
“As all of you are aware, we have been working in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion for years to find an acceptable, permanent legislative solution to the problems plaguing this program. Our work has had one goal: to provide the appropriate amount of non-immigrant, temporary workers needed to supplement our American workforce and sustain our economy,” wrote the Congressional members wrote.
“If significant and permanent H-2B cap relief is not provided, there will be severe consequences for seasonal businesses and our economy generally. Several seasonal businesses denied access to the program due to the insufficient cap have already been forced to scale back their operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers, and, in some cases, shutter their operations entirely,” the Congressional members continued. “Continuing with the status quo of failing to reform the H-2B program will only result in more closures or scale backs for these businesses. In any agreement to end the current partial lapse in government funding, we owe our constituents, and seasonal business owners relying on this vital program, a thoughtful and lasting legislative solution to the H-2B visa shortage.”
Recent filings show, that the statutory cap of 66,000, which was set more than three decades ago, is wholly inadequate to meet the demands of today’s seasonal businesses. Due to the strong national economy, employers have struggled to find U.S. workers for seasonal positions which are, on average, 6-9 month jobs. As such, there has been a marked uptick in the number of seasonal employers that, as a last resort, turn to the H-2B guest worker program for the employees they need to sustain their businesses during peak times.
Shortly after midnight on January 1, 2019, the Department of Labor’s iCERT system, through which employers seeking H-2B workers request temporary labor certifications –a necessary step in the H-2B application process—received a record number of requests and almost immediately crashed. In the brief moments before system failure, iCERT received in excess of 97,000 applications for the 33,000 available visas for the second half of the fiscal year.
Joining Tillis and King are Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Todd Young (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Doug Jones (D-AL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), James Risch (R-ID), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).
The letter is being led by Representatives Andy Harris (R-MD-1) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) in the House of Representatives.
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