Recently, President Donald Trump signed into law the 2018 omnibus budget bill that will keep the government funded through September.
Included in the omnibus bill is H-2B cap-relief language that could help landscapers out in a significant way this year. While this has the potential to help, it still depends on the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue the additional visas.
This language is the same that was included in last year’s budget bill. It gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to raise the H-2B cap when it is determined there is an economic need.
The total number of H-2B visas available has the ability to nearly double, going from 66,000 available in the fiscal year to 129,547.
Last year, the then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, was reluctant about having authority over the H-2B cap, citing potential exploitation of H-2B workers as the source of his concern.
After heavy lobbying from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the Department of Homeland Security authorized 15,000 additional H-2B visas in July 2017 after gaining the authority in May 2017.
In order to obtain one of these additional worker visas, petitioners had to show that their business was facing irreversible damage if they could not hire H-2B workers during the fiscal year of 2017.
While Kelly said his action was “a demonstration of the Administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses,” many landscaping companies said the help came too little and too late.
Yet some businesses looked on the bright side and saw it as an opening to include the law again and enact it sooner this year.
NALP credits the visa inclusion to a two-week advocacy blitz from various landscape professionals calling, emailing and tweeting their members of Congress about their cause. The advocacy was particularly hard-won as anti-immigration groups pressured Congress to not include H-2B cap-relief.
“We know this is a workforce issue and not an immigration one, but many on Capitol Hill disagree,” NALP said in a press release. “In fact, we were told on multiple occasions that there would be no H-2B cap-relief or any other immigration reform, unless an agreement was worked out on DACA. In the end, DACA has not yet been solved and yet the opportunity to achieve 2018 cap-relief was put in place, and it is the only immigration related issue that made it into the omnibus bill!”
Yet the fight is not over as now NALP and its supporters must work to convince the Department of Homeland Security to actually take advantage of the provided cap-relief.
While Kelly said it was a “one-time increase” to boost the annual set cap, it remains unknown if Nielsen will follow her predecessor’s words and not make additional visas available.
Despite Congress being on a two-week spring recess, NALP says it will continue to contact the offices to stress the importance of the cap relief.
“We hope that all NALP members will continue to join us in the important fight for H-2B cap-relief and encourage you to seek out opportunities to meet with your members of Congress while they are home for the recess,” NALP said.
Those wishing to help keep the pressure on the Department of Homeland Security, can check out how on the NALP Member Advocacy Center.
For more information on H-2B and how to help in advocacy efforts, contact Paul Mendelsohn, at [email protected].