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Government Affairs: H-2B efforts turn toward Homeland Security acting secretary

February 5, 2020 -  By
Photo: Getty Images / 400tmax

Photo: Getty Images / 400tmax

Last December, Congress approved an additional 65,000 H-2B visas above the statutory limit of 66,000, subject, however, to the approval of the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. H-2B advocates are now turning their efforts to convince acting secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to release the full complement of visas authorized by Congress.

Landscape contractors largest H-2B users
Landscape contractors are the largest users of the H-2B guest worker program. With the strong economy and historic low unemployment, landscape contractors are having difficulty finding employees domestically to handle all the work that is coming their way.

Last year, similar legislation passed increasing the cap by a similar number of visas as this year, but DHS released only an additional 30,000 visas, for a total of 96,000.

Two tranches of visas
DHS releases the statutory limit of 66,000 visas in two tranches: 33,000 on October 1 and 33,000 on April 1. This fiscal year, the first half-year statutory limit of 33,000 visas was reached November 15, 2019, just 45 days after the start of the fiscal year.

AmericanHort estimates that demand for the second tranche of 33,000 visas (to be released April 1) will exceed three times that number. If DHS releases all 65,000 additional visas authorized by Congress, the demand for H-2B visas will be close to being met for this fiscal year.

AmericanHort and NALP
Advocates for the H-2B program, such as AmericanHort and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) are working on a two-pronged approach. First, they are making the industry’s case to the acting secretary of Homeland Security to release the full number of additional visas authorized by Congress. Second, they are working with our Congressional champions in the House and Senate to develop a more permanent fix to H-2B problem. But, they need your support.

If you use H-2B workers in your landscape contracting operation, now is the time for you to get active to support the efforts of AmericanHort and NALP.

Call Homeland Security
First, call the Department of Homeland Security and ask them to release the full 65,000 H-2B additional visas authorized in the homeland Security FY2020 appropriations bill. Explain the need your business has for these workers and how it will negatively affect your business if you do not get your H-2B workers for the coming season. The main number at DHS is 202-282-8000.

Call Congress
Second, call your Congressional Representative and Senators and tell them that your business needs real H-2B reform. Explain the problems that you have applying for and receiving the workers you need to meet your customers’ needs and to support your American employees. Ask them to raise the cap permanently so each year we don’t have to go through the process of trying to get it raised in the DHS appropriations bill.

If you are not able to get your Representative or Senator directly on the phone, ask for the staff person handling workforce issues. Often these staff people have a better understanding of the problem than their bosses and will get your message to them.

To find the telephone number for your congressman, visit house.gov/representatives. For the numbers of your senators, visit senate.gov/senators/index.htm and look for the drop-down box in the upper left corner of the page to find your state.

Now is the time!

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About the Author:

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at gregg.robertson@conewagoventures.com.

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