The Departments of Homeland Security and Labor published a joint final rule in the Federal Register on May 8, 2019, launching the process for issuance of 30,000 additional seasonal non-agricultural H-2B visas for positions set to begin by September 30, 2019. Employers can now file to request the additional visas.
The rule clarifies that the 30,000 additional FY 2019 H-2B visas will be available “for those American businesses that attest to a level of need such that, if they do not receive all of the workers under the cap increase, they are likely to suffer irreparable harm, in other words, suffer a permanent and severe financial loss…..In addition….employers may only request these supplemental visas for specified H-2B returning workers….who were issued H-2B visas or were otherwise granted H-2B status in FY 2016, 2017, or 2018.”
If past is prologue, demand will far exceed supply, triggering a lottery. Last year, within 5 days after the Federal Register notice appeared, USCIS received petitions for over 29,000 H-2B visas and conducted a lottery to randomly select the petitions to process for the 15,000 additional H-2B visas.
While 30,000 additional H-2B visas for the remainder of FY2019 is an improvement over the 15,000 additional visas provided in the past few fiscal years, Congress needs to make a permanent fix to the H-2B visa cap so that Maine’s seasonal employers can have predictability when trying to meet their seasonal employment needs.
For a variety of perspectives on the H-2B program in general and on the additional visas, see this recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
Pine Tree Watch recently published, Help Wanted: The Immigrant Opportunity, a three part series looking at the importance of immigrants to Maine’s economy.
The series included perspectives from MeBIC’s director Beth Stickney, as well as from many of MeBIC’s Board members and partners, including Carla Dickstein of Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Dana Connors of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, John Dorrer, former director of the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information, Ben Waxman of American Roots, and Brian Skoczenski of Ready Seafood, and highlights data from MeBIC partner the New American Economy, among other sources.
The bill also highlights several bills that MeBIC has helped craft or supported both in the last legislative session and in the current one. However, Part 3 is not a full accounting of the bills we are working on. You can find a more complete list here.
The series is a thoughtful, in-depth look at a complex issue of great importance to Maine and Maine’s economy. It’s worth a read, through the links below.
Part 1: Filling a Severe Gap
Part 2: A Daunting Maze of Barriers
Part 3. It’s Cost vs. Potential in the Debate over Making It Easier for Immigrants
Barely a day goes by without some new development about the southern border. In only the last few weeks:
- The administration has requested an additional $4.5 billion in funds to help manage the border.
- An unaccompanied Guatemalan teenager died in Department of Homeland Security custody.
- The administration proposed making the U.S. an outlier regarding humanitarian protections for those fleeing persecution, by requiring asylum seekers to pay to apply for asylum, to pay for work permits, and to be ineligible for a work permit while their asylum cases are pending if they arrived at other than a port of entry.
- A federal appeals court heard oral arguments in the government’s appeal of a lower court’s decision against the administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols”, also called the “Remain in Mexico” policy that pushes asylum seekers from Central American countries back into Mexico while they await a chance to explain why they are seeking asylum and fled their home countries. The administration reports that over 1600 asylum seekers have been pushed back into Mexico under the policy.
- The Attorney General Barr issued a decision that would require asylum seekers who arrive between ports of entry to be detained during the entire period that they are pursuing their asylum claims, eliminating their current ability to ask to be bonded out.
And this list is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are a few items that you may have missed that might help you digest the substance and the impact of some of these developments.