Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has written to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, asking them to work together to find an immediate solution to a problem affecting temporary visas for seasonal workers. The Department of Labor has stopped processing applications for the H-2B visas in the light of an ongoing federal court case.
"Theseworkers are critical for inns and restaurants in Maine who can't hire enough people locally for all the jobs they have to fill during the busy summer tourist season," Pingree said. "This is a critical time of the year when they are getting ready for the busy season and delays in process their paperwork by the feds couldcause some real problems when summer gets here."
Each year, the federal government issues 66,000 H-2B visas for temporary, non-agricultural workers who fill mostly seasonal jobs. The visas are issued by the Department of Homeland Security, but the first step is for the Department of Labor to review the application to make sure that hiring the workers won't displace US employees or affect the wages of current workers. This month a federal judge ruled that the Department of Labor doesn't have the authority to review those applications, and Administration officials promptly announced that applications would no longer be processed.
Employers must also advertise the jobs locally before accepting applications from foreign workers.
"The legal questions still have a long way to go before they are settled once and for all, but Maine businesses can't wait. There needs to be at least a temporary solution to get these applications processed so workers can be hired for the coming tourist season."
Pingree said she has already heard from a number of innkeepers worried about delays in processing for their visa applications.