WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Seasonal guest worker visas, or H-2B visas, allow businesses to hire foreign workers when demand is high. Some members of Congress are pushing to ensure that if a worker has qualified before, they get a chance to return, without taking the space of another.
"We got to understand there are certain jobs that are available that Americans don’t want to do,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
Cuellar filed an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill that would extend legislation that exempts "returning workers" from the annual cap of 66,000 guest workers. Meaning, if a worker has entered on an H-2B visa before, they would not take a space from one of the 66,000 allowed annually. He says H-2B visas are crucial for industries like landscaping, hotels, forestry, and others, that can’t fill positions with American workers.
"They come in, do their job, they’re here for a period of time, and then they go back,” said Cuellar.
Cuellar says giving these workers a chance to come in legally would cut down on the millions of illegal immigrants.
"They want to make sure they follow the rules, because next year they want to make sure they’re called back again. In fact, a lot of them are folks that have been coming back for years,” said Cuellar.
Congressman Will Hurd’s (R-TX) district also lies on the Mexico-U.S. Border. While he supports this legislation, he says companies have to be able to show they can’t fill these jobs with Americans.
"If they’re not able to find it with local workers, then they should be able to leverage our legal immigration system,” said Hurd.
These guest workers also pay taxes, though don’t receive any of the benefits they’re paying for. The U.S. would, in effect, come out on top.
"Even if you’re paying for things that you’re not going to be able to enjoy later on down the road, some of that is the cost of doing business,” said Hurd.
Cuellar’s amendment passed the House Homeland Security Committee. The full Homeland Security appropriations bill now goes to the entire House for a vote.