The economy all over the world has taken major hits the last few years and they are still coming. A lot of the world looks to the United States as a beacon in the turn to more flourishing times. An important part of the economy is the H2B temporary worker visa program. This program has a cap of 66,000 visas it will issue. Small businesses, especially in the lawn, landscaping, and nursery type businesses rely on these skilled workers to help through their peak times of the year. This allows the companies to continue to employ their US workers full-time throughout the year when it is much slower.
We, here at Roanoke Landscapes, rely on a dozen or more of these visas to help us through our busy time. In return, our workers are also relying on our work. Some of these men have been with our company for 10 years. They are not just workers, they are like family. There is a lot of backlash about these workers taking jobs from US citizens. In our experience, and we can only speak on our behalf, this is not the case. There are many guidelines we have to follow in order to get these visas that, which by the way, we pay for. We have to run ads for employment for US workers. Some years we have not one US worker apply or inquire. The fact is, most US workers do not want to work outside, in the conditions we work, and how hard we work. This is hard work and not for the faint of heart. For those saying that these workers who come here legally are taking jobs from Americans. Americans do not want the job we are offering! That is the truth. This is what the nation needs to realize. They are not taking American jobs, they are coming here legally and doing the jobs that Americans do not want to do. That is the reality.
Our business relies on these workers. If the visas are not issued, I am not sure where that leaves us or a lot of other companies, nor the families that we help by having the same men return every year. The most harm will come to them, what will they do? Unfortunately, this will affect our business but will affect them much more. We care about these people and their families. They are just as nervous as we are. They are like family to us.
A Judge in Florida made a decision that could once again compromise and halt the visas being issued this year. This will either hinder our production early in our busiest part of the season or we may not get our workers all together. This judge determined that the government had too much control over the H2B program and that these visas were supposed to be handled through the Department of Homeland Security. DHS had given some of the authority to issue these visas to the Department of Labor.
Usually, our workers arrive in April and early May, like the majority of the workers do. This could postpone their arrival several weeks or at this point not at all. There is a four-step process that we must go through and the huge delays have been with the Department of Labor, which is step-two in this process. They all but came to a halt in March after the judge in Florida made his ruling. They opened the channels back up but the judge set a temporary halt date again that can happen tomorrow, April 15.
If our worker H2B visas are not fully processed by the end of business today, the process will halt, and we will have to start over which causes even more delays but there is still no guarantee that we will get our workers nor do we get the money back we have paid thus far either.
Jane Nichols Bishop of Peak Season Workforce has talked about the H2B workers on Cape Cod and the islands. Bishop has said the H2B workers have helped to generate more jobs for US workers. “If you were to look at some statistics, for every H2B visa worker that is here, they help to create or sustain 4.64 American jobs.” She said there is a huge misconception that the workers overstay and do not return home. “They come every summer. They go home. They’re with their families back home and then they come back the following year,” she said.
“The H2B program is always under siege, they are managed by three government agencies that don’t always see eye-to-eye,” she said. This, with the ruling of the Florida judge, has caused the biggest problems the program has seen thus far.
Please contact your local Senators and Representatives to help sponsor and co-sponsor HR4238! Help save small businesses!! Help save American jobs!!
Call, email, Facebook, or Tweet your representatives! #saveH2B