March 16, 2008

More on use of illegal seasonal workers!!

Visa limits Lift restrictions on seasonal workers

SUNDAY, MARCH 16, 2008

The standoff on immigration reform in Congress has small businesses scrambling to find workers to fill seasonal jobs. The end of a visa exemption program has made it impossible for many employers to legally bring in the foreign workers on whom they have depended.

As a result, some understaffed businesses may have to cut back their operations this summer since they can no longer obtain the necessary visas. The program of H-2B visas is limited to 66,000 seasonal workers a year, but an exemption passed by Congress had allowed almost double that by not counting returning nonagricultural workers against the cap.

The Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act expired Sept. 30, and so slashed the number of visas available to the original level. Its renewal is being blocked by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the New York Times reported, to pressure Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It has not done so, and workers and businesses are being penalized.

On Cape Cod, the Times reported, employers had applied for 5,000 visas but will receive just 15 to bring in workers for restaurants, inns, landscaping, resorts and other seasonal work. Employers say there aren't enough workers available to meet the demand.

In Ohio, the landscaping industry depended on about 3,000 H-2B workers but did not know how many would be available this year.

Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., who represents Cape Cod, told the Times,

"We're talking about a stimulus package, and yet we're putting at risk regional economies from the East Coast to the West Coast and many sections of the country in between."

Employers seeking legal entry argue they are being punished for following the law while other companies rely on illegal immigrants. Besides the direct impact on employers, there is the lost income to businesses that serve the immigrant work force.

A bill has been introduced to once again permit returning workers. The measure would be in keeping with the intent of broader immigration reform in clearing a way for foreign laborers to enter and work legally in the United States.

No comments: