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Homeland Security announces 15,000 additional seasonal visas for companies at risk of failure

The Hill logo The Hill 5/25/2018 John Bowden
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Friday that it would allow 15,000 more seasonal workers into the country in 2018 under the H-2B visa program, available to businesses at risk of failing without the increased workforce.

In a statement, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the move was meant to counter limitations on the program that had caused "a situation where the program unintentionally harms American businesses."

"We are once again in a situation where Congress has passed the buck and turned a decision over to DHS that would be better situated with Congress, who knows the needs of the program. As Secretary, I remain committed to protecting U.S. workers and strengthening the integrity of our lawful immigration system and look forward to working with Congress to do so," Nielsen added in her statement.

Nielsen's decision, which came after consult with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, follows a report finding that Maryland's crab industry lost nearly half of its workforce due to the Trump administration's tightening controls on the visa system.

Some companies that applied for visas earlier remained fully staffed, while others found themselves without a seasonal workforce at all.

"Companies that have been relying on this system for 25 years suddenly have no workers," Bill Seiling, director of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, told The Baltimore Sun earlier this month. "It's totally unfair and irrational, really."

The Trump administration made a similar move last year, admitting the same number of additional seasonal workers after then-DHS Secretary John Kelly determined there were not enough "qualified and willing U.S. workers" to fill the needs of businesses. At the time, the agency characterized the move as a "one-time" admittance of additional workers.

"Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary workers," Kelly said at the time.

"As a demonstration of the administration's commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap."

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