Led by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a bipartisan group of Senators sent a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta urging them not to increase the number of H-2B visas in 2017 despite authorization by Congress in the recently passed omnibus spending bill. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also signed the letter.
Congress authorized DHS Secretary Kelly to increase the number of H-2B visas that can be issued by approximately 70,000 in 2017. The annual cap is 66,000.
The H-2B visa is a low-skilled guest worker program primarily used by the landscaping, hospitality, and tourism industries to fill season or temporary jobs.
"A large body of evidence suggests that our increasing reliance on the H-2B program cuts wages, pushes American workers out of jobs, and may, in some case, discourages them from every applying again. Indiscriminate increases in the number of H-2B workers will only exacerbate these problems."
The Senators also listed recent accounts of abuse and exploitation of H-2B workers by employers. They asked both Sec. Kelly and Sec. Acosta to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with a detailed rationale of their decision-making process should they issue visas above the annual cap.
Earlier this year, more than 30 Senators urged Sec. Kelly to issue more H-2B visas.
Updated: Tue, May 23rd 2017 @ 9:19am EDT