U.S. business will be able to hire an additional 15,000 foreign workers under the H-2B visa program through the end of September, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday. The decision could impact North Carolina landscaping, tourism and seafood-production industries, some of which have been unable to secure workers through the program.
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a proponent of the H-2B program, held up one of President Donald Trump’s nominees for the Department of Homeland Security, hoping to pressure DHS Secretary John Kelly to reach a decision on the visa program.
Tillis said Monday night that he would remove the hold on Lee Francis Cissna to be the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Senate custom allows a single senator to block presidential nominations by using a hold.
Congress set the annual limit for H-2B visas at 66,000, but unlike in previous years, returning workers counted against the limit. Businesses hit the cap in March, and in May, Congress gave Kelly authority to increase the limit up to 70,000. Kelly called his decision a “one-time increase.”
“I’m encouraged that Secretary Kelly intends to provide relief to seasonal small businesses across the nation currently suffering from a lack of temporary workers. I look forward to reviewing the details of the rule,” Tillis said in a statement released by his office.
“As President Trump has noted, the H-2B program is vital for businesses that desperately need temporary help to keep their doors open and keep their American workforce employed. Moving forward, it’s important that the debate over H-2B is rooted in hard facts and the real-world experiences of small businesses owners doing everything they can make ends meet, not the misleading opinions of political pundits based in New York City and Washington who have never had to make payroll.”
Trump said during the presidential campaign that he has relied on the program in the past to find workers for his golf courses and hotels. H-2B visas can be used by seasonal businesses that determine there are not enough American workers to perform temporary, non-agricultural jobs.
Only Texas and Colorado used more foreign workers on H-2B visas than North Carolina, according to DHS data through March 31.