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Congressional Action Needed: Shortage of Temporary Workers Visas Squeeze Landscapers

04-02-2019
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A shortage of temporary foreign worker visas is squeezing landscapers for employees across the country. 

"It's my understanding that this fiscal year there were 33,000 available visas and upwards of 100,000 applicants just on the first day," said Danielle Bane.

In 1991, Jesse Bane started a landscaping company with his family.

"My boys been helping me since they were little tiny," Jesse Bane said. 

Over the years Quality One Inc. has grown into a successful business landing six figure projects. 

"We did go through a recruitment period, where we had nine applicants. One show up for an interview," Danielle Bane said. 

"So you are trying to hire American workers? asked CBN News.

"We are. We are," Danielle replied.  

So the Banes had to look elsewhere.

"I was uneducated. I didn't know a whole lot about the foreign worker program and I thought like many American's think today, those guys are taking jobs. They are taking American jobs – no way," said Jesse.

Turns out, the H-2B program is not like that.

It's designed to let employers hire temporary foreign workers for non-agriculture jobs. 

Companies must also show attempts to hire American workers before applying.

Created back in the 1950's, H-2B is not an easy process. Employers must submit applications, pay fees, then wait to be chosen through a lottery.

"It's extensive, but anyway we did that and once we got our first workers it was like heaven. They were at work every day. You can rely on them. They are eager to work," Jesse explained. 

But lately getting help through H-2B has proven difficult. The Bane's applied in December and then again this year for 15 workers but did not get a single one.

"We have no H-2B workers this year," Danielle said. "Realistically we try to hire US. We try to hire locally, but most of them will be unskilled or unreliable if we are able to find them."

This forced the Banes to turn down business and leave new equipment sitting in the parking lot with no one to operate them.

"We banked on them coming here because we're going to bring more work, break off and expand in more trucks," Jesse Bane Jr. said. 

The H-2B visa cap of 66,000 workers a year was set more than 20 years ago.

Congress just passed a bill allowing nearly 70,000 more visas to open up, but DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen limited that to only an additional 15,000 visas.

"I felt like God said stop praying small, look up," Danielle said. "And I realized that he began to expand my borders and my heart was not just for our workers but for every business that was in this crisis to get their workers."

"And then I saw that there was that opportunity that legislators and Secretary Nielsen, she has the ability to release additional visas and alleviate this," she continuted. 

Secretary Nielsen explained: "Congress – not DHS – should be responsible for determining whether the annual numerical limitations for H-2B workers set by Congress needs to be modified, and by how much, and for setting parameters to ensure that enough workers are available to meet employers' temporary needs throughout the year."

So while lawmakers debate what to do, companies like Quality One Inc. have this message for their customers. 

"I would tell my customers that no matter what happens we are going to try our best to service our contracts. It might get messy for a while but it will get better – we won't abandon them. We will get it done," Jesse said. 

 

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