H-2B hearings held on Capital Hill last week
Is H-2B legislation dead? Not according to the recent hearings held on April 16th on Capital Hill.
To those who use the H-2B program, passing legislation that allows
employers to actually have a legal work force, in occupations where
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents simply refuse to work,
appears to be a simple matter that makes good common sense. Not so. The
issue of H-2B legislation, like any other piece of legislation in which
the word "immigration" is mentioned—even whispered—is almost like the
kiss of death.
There are more than two sides to this issue.
There's the side of the landscape, construction and other industry H-2B
users where the message is loud and clear: we need qualified,
dependable workers if we are to continue in business. We will treat
them well, we will pay them well and we will adhere to all U.S.
Immigration and tax laws. Most H-2B users fall into this category.
However, some don't and hence one front of the opposition arises.
instance, there are groups, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which
on April 1, held an H-2B briefing at the Rayburn House Office Building
in Washington, D.C. to tell the stories of mistreated H-2B workers, who
are against the current H-2B system. Certainly, those of us in the
community know well the abuses of others. Some employers treat their
H-2B workers as indentured servants. They work them 7 days a week,
ignore overtime rules and "bench" them when work is slow, never
worrying about how these workers will survive, in a strange country,
without a paychecks. Others send their H-2B workers into the worst of
areas—known asbestos sites, or other equally dangerous areas, without
any protective work gear. When the worker is injured or sick, these
employers claim not to know who they are, for, after all, when that
worker is not on the payroll and there's no workman's comp insurance
available, it's easier to deny his existence than face up to the
problems created. However, if there were H-2B visas available and
legalization, this might very well not be a problem for abuses could be
curbed and employers, those who really try hard to play by the rules,
would placed on a level playing field with those who ignore all rules,
treat workers horrifically and still have a competitive advantage for
There's another opposition front: those who plain
out just don't like foreign workers, for a multitude of reasons. These
voters are members, undoubtedly, of the Lou Dobbs fan club. They are
loud, they are vocal and if H-2B and legalization reform are to take
place, those in industry who want and need a legalized workforce must
speak even louder.
On April 16, some good, law abiding employers
spoke up but not enough had the courage (or time) to come forward. In
order for H-2B reform to happen every employer must write to its
members of Congress now and tell them about how the H-2B program fills
the unmet need, despite constant advertisements and recruitment, for
qualified U.S. workers who will show up and work a full day without
quitting in the middle of the job. Congress needs to hear that these
foreign workers are being paid the prevailing wage, are being paid
benefits and are not being abused. Congress needs to hear the hard
numbers of lost business if the H-2B visa continues to be made
ineffective. In short, somehow Congress needs to be made to understand
that raiding companies like Pilgrim's Pride and bringing criminal
actions against some owners is not the way to keep America globally
On April 16, 2008, some Employers made the
journey to D.C. to speak out against an H-2B law that just doesn't
reflect community needs but most did not. It's time for the rest of the
business community to get involved, before things get even worse. As
Dr. Seuss once said" Please at least give me the illusion of movement".