WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security announced today that it’s approved a hike in visas for temporary non-agricultural workers for businesses that can prove they’d suffer “irreparable” financial harm without the immigrant labor.
DHS said in a statement that Homeland Security John Kelly met with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and “determined there are not enough qualified and willing U.S. workers available to perform temporary nonagricultural labor to satisfy the needs of some American businesses in FY 2017.”
The annual cap of H2-B visas is 66,000. Enough petitions to meet the cap had been received by March of this year.
“Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary workers,” Kelly said. “As a demonstration of the administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap.”
Industries including fishing and tourism had lobbied for more low-wage, seasonal immigrant labor, saying they don’t have enough maids, dishwashers, and other low-skilled employees for the summer.
One of the lawmakers who lobbied for the increase was Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who said in June that he spoken with Kelly and “stressed the need for DHS to address the H-2B visa shortage to help the small businesses across the nation that need them to keep their doors open.”
“I appreciate Secretary Kelly’s willingness to address this issue, and his commitment will provide a short-term fix,” Tillis said June 21 in a statement. “While I have some concerns about the timeline for granting the additional visas, I look forward to working with Secretary Kelly and my colleagues in Congress on ways to provide more long-term certainty for America’s seasonal small businesses.”
Last week, Tillis blocked President Trump’s nominee to head U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lee Francis Cissna, to force DHS to speed up the H2-B process. Tillis’ office said other unnamed GOP senators were also concerned about whether businesses would get their seasonal labor approved in time.
Trump received 69 H2-B visas for foreign workers as his Mar-a-Lago resort in 2016, according to the Palm Beach Post. Housekeepers get $10.17 an hour and cooks get $12.74.
“During the Palm Beach season, it is very, very hard to get people. During the season, you can’t get people,” Trump told ABC last summer. “…But if you look at all of the other places in Palm Beach, they’re all doing exactly the same thing.”