From the office of Congressman William R. Keating:
Washington, DC – Congressman Bill Keating, who has been a leader in the fight to protect H-2B visas, sent a letter today to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen inviting her to the district to meet with small business owners whose businesses have been crippled by the Administration’s current H-2B policy. He also requested that she use her authority to release additional H-2B visas.
“This President and his Administration claim to be pro-American businesses, but their H-2B policy is cutting small business owners in my district off at the knees. These business owners are attempting to cope with their intense seasonal demand without a labor force sufficient to support them. The Administration’s response to this crisis is insufficient,” said Congressman Keating. “American small businesses – and consequently local economies around the country – are suffering right now and there is absolutely no reason for it. I hope that Secretary Nielsen accepts my invitation so that someone in this Administration actually speaks to the people their policies are affecting.”
The text of the letter is below.
May 31, 2018
The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
308 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington D.C. 02528
Dear Secretary Nielsen,
I am writing to you today with two requests.
First, I am inviting you to visit my district, which encompasses the southeastern coast of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. As you know, H-2B visas are of critical concern to the livelihood of hundreds of small business on the Cape and Islands. I invite you to meet with our small business owners to see how the Administration’s current policy of limiting H-2B visas is crippling American businesses. I have heard stories from business owners in my district who have spent weeks working twenty-four hours per day, even sleeping in their offices, just to keep their doors open. I have spoken with an elderly couple whose dream it was to retire to Cape Cod and run a restaurant, but who are instead in their kitchen cooking seven nights a week for months on end, working so hard that their physicians grew concerned about their health. These types of hardships should not be a part of owning a business in the United States, and these examples merely scratch the surface of the stories I could share with you. In fact, should you accept my invitation, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce is willing to host a forum so you can speak with as many small business owners in the region as possible and hear their personal stories, the hardships stemming from the Administration’s H-2B policy, and the losses they are suffering as a result.
Second, I request that you utilize your authority to release additional H-2B visas beyond the 15,000 recently authorized. Those 15,000 visas represent only about 30% of the workers needed across the country to keep American small businesses afloat. This year we saw nearly unprecedented levels of employer need in the H-2B system, resulting in more than 80,000 final labor certifications being issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. As you know, a final labor certification proves that there was no US worker willing to perform the job duties required by an employer during the period of need. When the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for H-2B visas earlier this year, the level of demand was so immense that it triggered a visa lottery, a previously unknown procedure for the H-2B program that left business across the United States with great uncertainty in planning for their summer labor needs.
A strong bipartisan coalition of 89 Members of Congress came together to express our concerns over the real need for H-2B visas demonstrated by employers in our districts. The decision to release only 15,000 additional visas is wholly insufficient. Therefore, I am respectfully requesting that if more than 15,000 H-2B applications are received by USCIS during this new application period, you immediately exercise your authority to raise the H-2B cap further to accommodate any applications received in excess of the 15,000 visas recently authorized.
If you have any questions about this matter please feel free to contact Andrew Nelson in my Hyannis Office at (508) 771-6868 or [email protected]. I thank you for your attention to this matter.
William R. Keating
Member of Congress