March 16, 2015

Warner, Kaine Fight For Virginia Seafood Industry

Join a dozen bipartisan Senators in calling for Labor and Homeland Security Secretaries to immediately resume processing of H-2B applications

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) and 11 bipartisan Senators in calling on Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to coordinate and immediately resume accepting and processing H-2B visa applications. Seasonal workers returning to the United States under H-2B visas are critical to ensuring Virginia’s seafood businesses have the labor force they need during peak harvest season.

The departments immediately stopped processing applications just one day after a ruling from a U.S. District Court in Florida in Perez v. Perez found that the Labor Department lacks the sole authority to administer the H-2B visa program.

In letters to both Secretaries, the Senators wrote, “It [the Perez decision] did not require that DOL shut the H-2B program down. This decision along with DHS’ decision to stop the processing of its petitions has already caused economic damage and panic among businesses that depend on the H-2B program.”

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine and Mikulski, the bipartisan letters are signed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thad Cochran (R-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), David Vitter (R-LA) and Roger Wicker (R-MI).

“As you know, the H-2B program is a necessity for businesses across the country, such as seafood, hospitality, tourism, forestry and other seasonal industries.  These businesses are on the ropes and are fighting every day to survive. In just this year alone, they are facing higher wages because of the prohibition on the use of prevailing wage surveys and many of them won’t be able to secure workers because the cap for the 1st half of the year was reached in January… We urge DHS, in collaboration with DOL, to immediately issue an emergency rule that will result in the resumption of H-2B processing,” wrote the Senators.

The full text of both letters appears below.

March 13, 2015

The Honorable Jeh Johnson

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Johnson:

We are shocked and disappointed at the Department’s (DHS) decision to halt the processing of its H-2B applications in light of a March 4, 2015 decision in Perez v. Perez, No. 3:14-cv-682. The Department must immediately coordinate with DOL so that H-2B program can resume as quickly as possible.

The Perez decision found that DOL lacks the sole authority to issue formal notice-and-comment rules under the Administrative Procedure Act. It did not require that DOL shut the H-2B program down. This decision along with DHS’ decision to stop the processing of its petitions has already caused economic damage and panic among businesses that depend on the H-2B program.

As you know, the H-2B program is a necessity for businesses across the country, such as seafood, hospitality, tourism, forestry and other seasonal industries.  These businesses are on the ropes and are fighting every day to survive. In just this year alone, they are facing higher wages because of the prohibition on the use of prevailing wage surveys and many of them won’t be able to secure workers because the cap for the 1st half of the year was reached in January.

Secretary Johnson, our constituents need a government on their side. Every time there is a bureaucratic rule change or legal interpretation that harms their ability to operate their business, they lose another piece of their livelihood.  They need a functioning H-2B program.

We urge DHS, in collaboration with DOL, to immediately issue an emergency rule that will result in the resumption of H-2B processing. In the meantime, we are exploring legislative options to ensure that this happens.

We look forward to hearing from you.

March 13, 2015

The Honorable Thomas Perez

Secretary

U.S. Department of Labor

Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Secretary Perez:

We are shocked and disappointed at the Department’s (DOL) decision to no longer accept or process requests for H-2B labor certifications in light of a March 4, 2015 decision in Perez v. Perez, No. 3:14-cv-682. This hasty decision resulted in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) halting the processing of its petitions just one day later.  The Department must immediately coordinate with DHS so that the processing of H-2B applications can resume as quickly as possible.

The Perez decision found that DOL lacks the sole authority to issue formal notice-and-comment rules under the Administrative Procedure Act. It did not require that DOL shut the H-2B program down. This decision along with DHS’ decision to stop the processing of its petitions has already caused economic damage and panic among businesses that depend on the H-2B program.

As you know, the H-2B program is a necessity for businesses across the country, such as seafood, hospitality, tourism, forestry and other seasonal industries.  These businesses are on the ropes and are fighting every day to survive. In just this year alone, they are facing higher wages because of the Department’s short-sighted decision to prohibit the use of prevailing wage surveys and many of them won’t be able to secure workers because the cap for the 1st half of the year was reached in January.

Secretary Perez, our constituents need a government on their side. Every time there is a bureaucratic rule change or legal interpretation that harms their ability to operate their business, they lose another piece of their livelihood.  They need a functioning H-2B program.

In your role as a consultant agency, we urge you to work with DHS to immediately issue an emergency rule that will result in the resumption of H-2B processing. In the meantime, we are exploring legislative options to ensure that this happens.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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