The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced a one-time increase of 15,000 additional visas for low-wage seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year, a seeming about-face from President Trump’s “Hire American” rhetoric, following heavy lobbying from fisheries, hospitality and other industries that rely on temporary foreign workers.
The increase represents a 45 percent bump from the number of H-2B visas normally issued for the second half of the fiscal year, said senior Homeland Security officials in a call with reporters.
The visas are for workers taking temporary jobs in the seafood, tourism, landscaping, construction and other seasonal industries — but not farm laborers.
Businesses can begin applying for the visas this week, but must first attest that their firms would suffer permanent “irreparable harm” without importing foreign workers. They will be required to retain documents proving that they would not otherwise be able to meet their contractual obligations, or provide other evidence of severe financial loss, the officials said.
Asked how allowing more foreign workers aligns with Trump’s America First policies — especially as the White House kicks off what it has promoted as “Made in America” week — one of the Homeland Security officials said the increase “absolutely does” fit in with Trump’s campaign promises.
“We’re talking about American businesses that are at risk of suffering irreparable harm if they don’t get additional H-2B workers,” he said. “This does help with American businesses continuing to prosper.”
Another official said the government made the decision after “considering the interest of U.S. workers” and has created a tip line for reports of worker exploitation and abuse.
“[Secretary John Kelly] first and foremost is committed to protecting U.S. workers and strengthening the integrity of our immigration system,” she said.
The officials briefed reporters in advance about the new policy on the condition that they not be named.
SOURCE: Tracy Jan
The Washington Post