Warner urging administration to increase H-2B visas to support Virginia seafood industry
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., joined his colleagues in a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf urging the Administration to immediately increase the statutory cap of H-2B visas for fiscal year 2020.
The government funding bills that were signed into law authorize the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to release over 60,000 additional H-2B visas for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020.
The H-2B temporary non-agricultural visa program is vital to helping small and seasonal employers across the Commonwealth sustain their businesses, and supporting Virginia jobs dependent upon seasonal business industries, such as seafood. H-2B visas are critical to ensuring Virginia’s seafood businesses, many of which have been family-owned for generations, have the labor force they need during peak harvest season.
“These American businesses depend on seasonal employment to meet the demand across many industries. Without immediate and meaningful H-2B cap relief, seasonal businesses will be forced to scale back operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers and, in some cases, close operations completely. By taking quick action to release additional H-2B visas, seasonal businesses and U.S. workers across the country will avoid these harmful consequences, and instead, help contribute to the American economy,” wrote the members of Congress.
In their letter, the members of Congress also emphasized that due to the continued low unemployment rate and the growing demand for H-2B workers, the Administration must promptly make these additional visas available.
Sen. Warner has a long record of fighting for Virginia’s seafood industry. Earlier this month, Sen. Warner met with Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to discuss the impact of the H-2B program on Virginia and urged him to work with DHS to release the additional H-2B visas as quickly as possible.
Sen. Warner has also introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the H-2B visa program, requested an audit to determine the number of unused visas that could be made available to eligible petitioners, and has repeatedly pushed DHS to provide necessary relief in the event that the visa cap gets close to being reached.
In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was also signed by 188 members of Congress, including several members of the Virginia congressional delegation: U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).