GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas

A group of Republican senators are asking the Trump administration not to restrict temporary work-based visas amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Todd Young (Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and James Lankford (Okla.) argue that issuing H-2B and H-2A visas, which are used for seasonal workers, will help economic recovery.

The call comes as some conservative lawmakers have called for the suspension of work visas amid widespread unemployment. According to the lawmakers, most states rely on guest workers “to help keep their forestry, landscaping, seafood, and hospitality businesses open.”

“Some of these struggling small businesses rely on labor that many Americans may not be qualified or able to perform, even in the aftermath of the pandemic, and some of these businesses operate in industry sectors that are not experiencing high unemployment—in contrast with the overall national unemployment figures—or in particular geographical locations where qualified labor is scarce,” the senators wrote in a letter addressed to President Trump. 

Earlier this month the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to publish a new rule this week that would allow an additional 30,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for the remainder of fiscal 2019.

At the time, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called the move “bad news for hard-working Americans and more than 50k unemployed Arkansans.” 

As the lawmakers noted Wednesday, the employers hiring workers using temporary visas must “establish the lack of American workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.” 

“Due to the temporary and seasonal nature of the work, it is exceedingly difficult to find American workers, even now, who wish to work only on a temporary basis. Many of the jobs lost since March are not temporary or seasonal,” the lawmakers wrote.