Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined more than 14 of his colleagues from both parties to urge Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to immediately coordinate and take steps that will allow them to resume accepting and processing H-2B visa applications. These visas enable foreign seasonal workers to temporarily work in the United States, and are critical to ensuring that the businesses that rely on a seasonal workforce, including Delaware's hotels and landscaping companies, have the labor they need during peak season.
The Departments of Labor and Homeland Security immediately stopped processing applications just one day after a ruling from a U.S. District Court in Florida found in Perez v. Perez that the Labor Department lacks the sole authority to administer formal rules for the H-2B visa program. On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security said it is working with the Department of Labor to quickly issue new regulations that address this ruling and allow the visa program and application process to continue.
"Delaware businesses, particularly our tourism and landscaping industries, rely on the H-2B visa program to hire extra workers in the summer when they need them the most," Sen. Carper said. "Abruptly halting this program so close to the peak season could hurt local employers' ability to keep their businesses going and have a negative impact on our local economy. I am encouraged that Secretaries Johnson and Perez are working together to find a solution and urge them to continue to work expeditiously to ensure that Delaware employers and businesses can meet their workforce needs this season."
In letters to both Secretaries, the Senators wrote, "It [the Perez decision] did not require that DOL shut the H-2B program down. This decision along with DHS' decision to stop the processing of its petitions has already caused economic damage and panic among businesses that depend on the H-2B program."
In order to obtain H-2B visas for their workers, employers must demonstrate that they attempted but were unable to find American workers. Employees receiving H-2B visas must return home after their seasonal labor is complete.
The bipartisan letters were led by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and also signed by Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), David Vitter (R-La.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).