- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Going into what is supposed to be the biggest sales week of the crawfish season, processor Dexter Guillory says he is nothing but worried.

One month into the peak season, during which the crawfish industry makes most of its money, an immigration kerfuffle has kept Guillory and most of the owners of the state’s dozen or so processors from hiring enough peelers.

Most of the workers come from Mexico and Central America. Without the peelers, the processors will stop buying as much crawfish from the fishermen.

“If we can’t buy them and the fishermen don’t get the money they need, the pyramid starts to cave in,” Guillory told The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1DkcoRO ).

Louisiana officials are aware and spent much of last week scurrying around Washington, D.C., trying to craft some sort of emergency solution to what has been a double-whammy for the program that allows people from other countries to get work permits for seasonal jobs.

Congress limits the number of permits, called H-2B visas, to 66,000 a year. The U.S. Department of Labor issues 33,000 every six months and had reached that cap in January. Then on March 4, a federal district court in Florida ruled that the Labor Department exceeded its authority by issuing permits.

Most of H-2B seasonal workers do landscaping and clean hotel rooms. But there are wide varieties of jobs across the U.S. for which these foreign workers are hired.

Employers have to show no U.S. citizens want the short-term jobs. The foreign workers pay taxes on their earnings then go home after a few months.

Louisiana hired 5,546 H-2B workers in 2014, according to the U.S. Labor Department. They are put to work processing seafood, sugar cane and crawfish.

For Guillory, a crawfish processor whose applications are among those in the Labor Department’s pipeline, it all may be too little, too late.

“Even if they open doors in two days, it’ll take two weeks to get them here,” Guillory said. “I still could make half the season.”

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said the crawfish industry’s losses this year could be as much as $30 million out of the $100 million industry.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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