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House Holds Hearing on H-2B Temporary Foreign Worker Program


The U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on June 8, 2016, entitled “The H-2B Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Examining the Effects on Americans’ Job Opportunities and Wages.” Testifying were Michael Cunningham, Executive Director and Secretary/Treasurer, Texas State Building and Construction Trade Council; Meredith Stewart, Staff Attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center; Daniel Costa, Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research, Economic Policy Institute; Stephen G. Bronaers, Partner, Edgeworth Economics; and Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies. Presiding was Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Sen. Grassley noted, among other things, that according to statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as of June 2, 2016, the agency had already approved petitions for 12,727 returning H-2B workers, “with 1,171 potential additional returning workers in the pipeline.” That’s a potential total, so far, of 13,898 returning workers this fiscal year, he noted. “That number exceeds by almost 75% the Congressional Budget office’s estimate of only 8,000 H-2B returning workers this fiscal year,” Sen. Grassley said.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) released a related statement. AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis noted, “The H-2B visa program is capped at 66,000 visas per year, and that numerical cap has not once been changed since the visa category was established in 1990, despite changing market demands. Small and seasonal businesses seek qualified American workers to fill seasonal or temporary short-term positions, but when those positions remain unfilled, U.S. employers need the H-2B program to meet their business demands. I very much hope that the hearing today gives a fair shake to this vital program.” He added, “Ultimately, however, what would best meet the needs of the U.S. economy is a real essential worker visa, one that would allow a sufficient number of these workers to come to the U.S. and would include an opportunity to apply for permanent status if they so desired. We hope that today’s hearing will bring Congress closer to understanding the critical need for a workable essential worker visa.”

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