Bloomberg — The Biden administration will nearly double the number of temporary work visas for jobs involving hospitality, landscaping and seafood-processing as it looks to address seasonal shortages employers have been scrambling to make up for.
The move would allow 64,716 nonagricultural H-2B visas in addition to the 66,000 currently available each fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement on Wednesday evening, adding that it was “acting swiftly to address employers’ needs for additional seasonal workers.” The government’s fiscal year began on Oct. 1.
Twenty thousand of the H-2B visas will be granted to workers from the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala as well as Haiti.
“At a time of record job growth, this full year allocation at the very outset of the fiscal year will ensure that businesses can plan for their peak season labor needs,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
He added that Homeland Security and the Labor Department would boost worker protections to make sure “unscrupulous employers” don’t subject workers to unsafe work conditions or too-low wages.
The announcement came a day before Mayorkas and other senior US officials were to discuss security and other issues with Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and security minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez. Mexico has repeatedly urged the US to provide more legal pathways for immigration.
Homeland Security said the statement that the visas for Central Americans and Haitians will advance the administration’s pledge to “expand legal pathways as an alternative to irregular migration.”
Domestically, the issue of border security and the influx of migrants from Central America and elsewhere seeking asylum at the southern border has been the focus of repeated attacks by Republicans on President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, and become a flashpoint in November’s midterm elections.
US businesses have long relied on employees from around the world who hold various types of visas to help out at various times of the year. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted that flow, leaving many industries shorthanded.
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