H-2B Program Continues to Confound
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
WASHINGTON, D.C. - If you are a landscape contractor who relies upon the H-2B guest worker program for any part of your spring and summer crews, then bless your heart. The program has started to implode.
The problems started when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in January that the cap for visas for workers for the first half of the federal fiscal year had been reached more than two months before the second round of visas was to become available April 1. With the economy recovering, demand for H-2B workers is skyrocketing.
Meanwhile, regulations proposed by the DHS and the Department of Labor (DOL) that would drastically change the program, making it virtually unworkable for landscape contractors, were declared invalid by a Florida federal judge on March 4. Normally this would be a good thing. But in the bizarre world of H-2B, DHS and DOL used that ruling as an excuse to stop processing any H-2B visas, just as many landscape contractors were expecting their workers.
After an enormous grass roots outcry to Congress coordinated by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP, formerly PLANET) and AmericanHort and supported by PLNA, DHS and DOL requested a stay of the judge’s ruling, which the judge granted until April 15, and resumed processing visas on March 17.
What will happen after April 15 is anybody’s guess. DHS and DOL said that they are now writing interim regulations that will be published on April 30. At this point, no one outside of DHS or DOL knows what those regulations will contain.
Program that Works
Our industry needs a guest worker program that works. With DHS and DOL openly hostile to H-2B and H-2A for agricultural workers, only Congress can straighten things out. However, they have not shown an inclination to do so. HR 4238 introduced last session of Congress would have fixed H-2B. However, the bill died without even a committee vote. It has not been reintroduced this session.
The only solution is for you to speak to your Congressman and Senators and tell them that our industry needs a legal way of bringing foreign workers into this country for seasonal work. H-2B, at this point, seems beyond repair.
NALP and AmericanHort are coordinating a fly-in (drive-in) on April 15 to visit Congressional offices. Email Tom Delaney at the NALP for more information.