Important H-2B Updates
Monday, June 13, 2016
Posted by: Julie Hill
The House Appropriations Committee plans to take it the Fiscal 2017 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill tomorrow at 10:30. While the bill does not currently include an H-2B returning worker exemption, we hope that it can be added by an amendment. Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) plan to offer the amendment and WE NEED YOUR HELP TO MAKE SURE IT PASSES. ‘’
You can watch tomorrow’s debate online at: http://appropriations.house.gov.
What Can You Do?
If your Representative is on the committee list below or you have a relationship with anyone on the list, please call and urge him or her to VOTE YES ON A AN H-2B RETURNING WORKER AMENDMENT THAT WILL BE OFFERED TOMORROW BY REPS HARRIS AND CUELLAR! The amendment would be a one-year extension of the current H-2B returning worker exemption through the FY17 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. A copy of the amendment is attached. You can reach you Representative through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121. If your Representative is not on the list and he or she supports the H-2B program, please encourage him or her to reach out the Appropriations Committee leadership and express support for the amendment.
We particularly need outreach from constituents to:
- Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)
House Appropriations Committee Members
- Andy Harris, MD, Maryland
- Scott Rigell, Virginia
- C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland
Senate Appropriations Bills
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Department of Labor Appropriations bill. It includes the following helpful H-2B provisions:
- Authorizes DOL to transfer up to $20M of H-1B fee funding to augment staffing for H-2B and H-2A temporary labor certification processing to avoid processing delays.
- Continues the H-2B regulatory relief provisions that were enacted last year to allow the use of wage surveys, prohibit DOL from enforcing the regulations corresponding employment and 34 guarantee provisions and limiting DOL audit authority.
The bill also includes the following non-binding report language:
The Committee is concerned about widespread reports of lengthy wage determination and application processing delays as well as allegations of instances of enforcement of regulations Congress specifically prohibited in the fiscal year 2016 appropriations act. The H–2B program is a critical source of labor for highly seasonal industries including fishing, forestry, tourism, hospitality, recreation, and others. The program ensures a legal labor force to fill temporary jobs when an insufficient number of American workers are available. However, some requirements currently imposed by the Department make the program excessively burdensome and costly on employers seeking to legally obtain temporary employees which ultimately jeopardizes jobs for American workers dependent on these enterprises. General provisions are continued in the bill to address these concerns; however, persistent delays in processing applications remain. The delays noted in most of the guest worker programs have grown so severe that businesses have to forego part of their work seasons, resulting in missed or defaulted contracts, preventing growth, and ultimately jeopardizing the jobs of dependent American workers. The Committee directs the Department to administer and regulate the H–2B program in an efficient manner that is consistent with the law, allowing employers to legally seek temporary workers at fair and accurate prevailing wages.
The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill also includes the following H-2B-related report language:
The Committee remains concerned over the management of the H–2B visa program, particularly the allocation of visas within the annual caps. The Committee directs USCIS to use the findings of the study required in Senate Report 144–168 to make systematic improvements to ensure the number of individuals admitted to, or present in, the United States in H–2B status is more closely aligned with the statutory numerical limitation. To increase transparency, USCIS shall make publically available on the DHS Web site—(1) 5 years of historical data of H–2B nonimmigrant petitions received and approved and the number of visas for H–2B non- immigrants that were not subject to the statutory cap; (2) the annual target number of beneficiaries to be issued visas as H–2B non- immigrants for the fiscal year; (3) the number of petitions for H– 2B nonimmigrants approved by the Department in each half of the fiscal year, including the aggregated number of beneficiaries contained in the approved petitions; (4) the number of petitions pending approval or denial by the Secretary; (5) the number of visas that are not exempt from the statutory cap issued by the Secretary of State; and (6) disclosure of the methodology and raw data used to determine when the statutory cap has been reached, including notification whenever the methodology to make this determination changes at any time during the fiscal year.
Next Steps in the H-2B Funding Process
The annual Congressional appropriations process is a long one, but tomorrow’s House Appropriations Committee vote is essential because if we do not get a returning worker amendment included, it is unlikely to be included in a final spending package later this year.
In general, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees pass their own versions of individual spending bills to fund each of the various federal government agencies and departments. In theory, the full House and Senate should each pass these individual spending measures, work out the differences between the two chambers’ bills in conference and send final spending measures to the President for his signature before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.
Congress rarely meets this October 1 deadline and instead often passes a temporary spending bill called a continuing resolution that simply extends the prior year spending for a period of time, which can vary from a few days to an entire year. Last year, Congress passed a continuing resolution that was in effect until late December. In December, Congress combined several spending bills into an omnibus appropriations bill, which simply means a bill that combines funding for several government departments and agencies into one big spending bill. When a package like that is put together, Congress generally negotiates the final details drawing on the individual spending bills passed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
Last year the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a DOL spending bill that included the regulatory provisions such as allowing wage surveys, limiting the 3/4 guarantee and DOL audit authority. The House-passed DOL appropriations bill did not include these provisions. The House Appropriations Committee passed a DHS appropriations bill with the returning worker exemption. The Senate Appropriations Committee-passed DHS bill did not include the returning worker exemption. When House and Senate lawmakers negotiated a final omnibus appropriations package, we were successful in having all of the helpful H-2B provisions included.
We hope to do the same thing this year. Passing the Harris-Cuellar returning worker amendment is critical. If it is not included the House DHS appropriations bill, it will be virtually impossible to get it included in a final spending package.