DHS Secretary John Kelly filed the required paperwork with the Federal Register to increase the number of H-2B visas for fiscal year 2017 after meeting with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who said there weren’t enough USA workers to satisfy the needs of businesses across the country.
“Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses at risk of significant harm due to a lack of available seasonal workers”, Kelly said.
Businesses have been vocal in demanding an expansion of the H-2B program, saying there are not enough American workers to fill the temporary jobs they need to operate.
The H-2B program allows workers from places like Mexico and Guatemala to come to the US, work for a few months at a government-set prevailing wage, and then return to their home countries, only to repeat the process the following year.
Skilled foreign non-agricultural workers on H-2B visas are used widely in the tourism industry, as well as industries as wide-ranging as horse racing, meat packing and landscaping.
Current law limits the H-2B program to 66,000 visas a year, split evenly between fall and spring application periods. Though DHS officials said they had no information on whether Trump companies would apply for any of the extra H2Bs, his properties have in the past hired foreign workers that way.
Still, senior DHS officials insisted the policy fits Trumps self-styled “America First” agenda because it will help American businesses. Until previous year, guest workers who had already participated were not counted toward the cap.
“We’re talking about American businesses that are at risk of suffering irreparable harm if they don’t get additional H-2B workers”, said David Lapan, a DHS spokesperson told reporters.
NumbersUSA, an organization that opposes additional immigration, urged the administration not to increase the number of H-2B visas.
“This does help with American businesses continuing to prosper”, the official said.
The Trump administration has expanded the meaning of “America First” to include foreign workers willing to take on low-skill work.
While President Trump has expressed his opposition to guest worker programs, he has made an exception for the H2B visa – one his Mar-a-Lago resort regularly applies for in order to supplement its staff.