Homeland Security will dole out an additional 30,000 seasonal guest worker passes this year as it pushes to make good on President Trump’s new promise to bring in more foreign labor amid a strong economy.
Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the new H-2B visas, which are given for non-agricultural seasonal worker such as landscaping or resort work, will only be available to “returning workers,” who had been approved for similar permits in 2016, 2017 or 2018, the department said.
The 30,000 increase is double the increase Ms. Nielsen agreed to last year, when she approved a 15,000 jump. This year’s bump is also earlier in the season, which will give employers more time to apply and plan.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill who’d pushed for an increase said it will help boost businesses in their states.
“I urge the Department of Homeland Security to move swiftly so New Hampshire small businesses can apply as quickly as possible, as our peak tourist season draws near,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat.
The 30,000 increase was first reported by CarnivalWarehouse.com, which covers amusement-park news. It reported that Ms. Nielsen informed members of Congress about the surge in visas in a conference call Friday morning.
Under the law, the H-2B program is capped at 33,000 visas for the summer months, and another 33,000 for the winter months.
Seasonal businesses ranging from landscapers to Maryland crab-picking operations to ski and beach resorts that say they rely on foreign labor to keep running.
They have begged for an increase.
Congress, however, has been unable to reach a deal for the last three years, and each time instead has punted to Homeland Security and the Labor Department, telling them to figure out an increase of up to 60,000 additional visas per year.
In 2017 and 2018 the department approved an additional 15,000 visas each year, and acted later in the year, disappointing businesses who’d said they wanted more workers, and an earlier lead time.
Ms. Nielsen, while approving the increase, will again chide Congress for punting the decision to her in the first place.
“The truth is that Congress is in the best position to know the appropriate number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming U.S. workers,” said Andrea Palermo, a spokeswoman for the department. “Congress — not DHS — should be responsible for determining whether the annual numerical limitations for H-2B workers set by Congress need to be modified, and by how much, and for setting parameters to ensure that enough workers are available to meet employers’ temporary needs throughout the year.”