- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

More than 200 small-business owners from Maryland and throughout the country went to Capitol Hill this week to ask their representatives to save their jobs by pushing a bill to restore H2-B visas.

The bill, Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2007, is an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which limits the number of temporary workers that can enter the country. The amendment labels H2-B visa-holders as returning workers, removing limits on how many can return to work each season.

The visas, which allow foreign workers to legally enter the country and work at a seasonal job for about six to eight months, help provide workers to fill spots American workers won’t take, said Hank Lavery, president of Save Small Business, the group that organized the meetings Wednesday on Capitol Hill. He said Americans are not attracted to the jobs because they are seasonal.

“We’re advertising the jobs, we’re doing everything we can to find Americans, but somebody trying to raise a family can’t do it on a six-month job,” Mr. Lavery said. “And there are not enough young Americans, or any Americans, willing to do the jobs.”

He also said American workers could lose their jobs if the bill is not passed because employers would have to close businesses.

“This is about American jobs; this is not about immigration,” he said to the business owners before they went to meetings.

To get that point across to the representatives, the owners talked specifically about the Maryland crabbing industry, which would lose an estimated 2.54 domestic workers for every H2-B visa job taken away, according to a University of Maryland, College Park, study released Monday.

Business owners from other industries — including landscaping, nurseries, swimming pools, restaurants and hotels — also came to tell their stories to the Maryland congressional representatives.

Mr. Brooks, who led the Maryland business owners’ meetings, said the representatives seemed receptive to their cause.

“I think we’re making headway because people are understanding where we are, what’s at stake,” he said. “This is a jobs issue, along with a small-business issue, and thousands of jobs are going to be lost. And I really do think that’s having an impact.”

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Frederick Republican, said he agreed the issue was about saving American jobs.

“They’re not staying here are they?” he asked sarcastically, referring to the stipulation of the H2-B visas that requires foreign workers to return to their home countries as soon as they are done with the job.

The representatives, or their staff members, all said they would do what they can to support H2-B visas.

However, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Cockeysville Democrat, said he’s not sure if he and others will have an impact before this session of Congress ends with all the other things on the agenda. “Those of us who represent Maryland … need to be vigilant, we need to be on top of it, and we’re going to try to do whatever we can, but I don’t see, being realistic, I don’t see a lot happening,” he said.

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