Louisiana congressman’s bill offers worker-visa-shortage relief

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), introduced legislation on Monday that would provide relief for the current shortage of H-2B visas being issued by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Seasonal Labor for Job Creators Act is of particular importance to Boustany, as the agriculture, tourism  and seafood-processing industries in his home state of Louisiana heavily depend on seasonal immigrant workers. Bolstering the H-2B visa program would allow these industries to quickly hire skilled foreign workers during times of peak demand.

Estimates indicate that for every H-2B worker on site, four American jobs are created and sustained. Under current law, the Department of Labor implements a limit on the total number of temporary workers that are allowed into the U.S. during each fiscal year. Federal law caps H-2B visas at 66,000 annually – divided equally between the first and second halves of the fiscal year. The cap for the second half of Fiscal Year 2015 was opened on April 1 and was maxed out one day later.

“The Department of Labor’s arbitrary temporary-worker cap has thrown Louisiana industries that depend on seasonal workers into crisis,” Boustany said. “Some businesses are being driven to bail prisoners out of local jails or even hire illegal immigrants, risking millions in federal fines, to fill gaps in their work force. It’s wrong to make these hard-working business owners face the choice between breaking the law and closing their doors.”

 

The trend has worsened over the last eight years, as the H-2B returning-worker exemption expired. The exemption allowed workers who had previously worked for a company in the U.S. on an H-2B visa and later legally returned home, not to be counted against the cap in future years if they returned to work at the same company. Boustany’s Seasonal Labor for Job Creators Act would also make the returning-worker exemption permanent, providing some relief to these companies.

“The Seasonal Labor for Job Creators Act provides emergency relief to Louisiana’s seafood, agriculture and tourism industries using this important program and ensures the jobs they support are preserved,” Boustany said.