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The importance of the H-2B program

As an employer, I rely on seasonal H-2B visa employees to sustain my small business during the busy season so we are able to keep the doors open year round.  Unfortunately, government bureaucracy has made it more difficult for me to get those workers and as a result, my business is struggling to stay open. 


My busy season started on April 1st and I only had two men working. I usually have 47 workers and a full time supervisor, but due to processing delays, those additional workers never arrived. 


{mosads}That was because the Federal government has failed to move quickly to approve our requests for these workers. 


You might say that I should hire local workers, but believe me I have tried.  In fact, that’s a requirement in the law.  You have to prove that you have tried to hire Americans to do these tough, but temporary jobs, which I did and I continue to do. 


The simple fact is that most Americans don’t want these kinds of temporary jobs.  And that is why I have used the H-2B visa program, which not only helps to grow my business, but also helps to sustain American jobs.  Indeed, studies show that for every H-2B visa processed, close to five American jobs are sustained. 


It’s personally frustrating to me that I can’t get the Federal bureaucracy to respond to the documented needs of my small business.  It’s also frustrating for my clients, who have been calling me incessantly since the weather broke in the middle of March, asking when I can send workers to get the job done. I have not been able to give them a time frame as to when I can expect to have a full workforce, because the Federal government won’t tell me.  Without the seasonal workers participating in the H-2B program, my business will struggle to meet the demands of our regular clients who have come to rely on our services for many years.  Many have said that they are desperate and they will probably not return to our service. This hurts my business, my employees, and their families.


Our ability to operate at full capacity allows us to do work with many local vendors, who fix and service our trucks, sell us supplies, sell us insurance, and operate our payroll. When our business suffers, those businesses will suffer as well.


It’s ironic that for following the law, we get punished. Our workers are coming here legally and they are not immigrants. They obey the federal guidelines, come here to work temporarily, and return when the season is over. In order to even apply, I have to navigate three complex federal bureaucracies and comply with a long list of regulations. After going to great lengths to try to find local U.S. workers to fill the jobs, I have to certify that the wages that temporary workers will be paid will not undercut American wages. My workers are extended the same rights as U.S. workers and there are strict rules that prevent the abuse of this program.



The H-2B workers that I have had have had a lot of success and many of them return year after year because of their great experience. Even without delays, the annual cap of H-2B workers is reached very early in the year, often preventing us from bringing back enough workers. Exemptions need to be made for workers who have successfully participated in the program in the past.


I cannot stress enough how crucial the H-2B program is for the success of our local economies. We all want what is best for our companies, our locally employed workers, and our communities. This program poses no threat to the American economy; in fact it fills a necessary part of the labor landscape and helps create and sustain U.S. jobs. Our workers are treated well, obey the law, and provide high levels of service to our clients. It is not too much to ask for timely processing of applications at the DOL and an adequate level of certainty for employers who need to meet work deadlines.




Hemphill is president of Three Seasons Landscape Contracting Services, Inc.




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