The Department of Homeland Security has put “on hold” a plan to authorize an additional 35,000 H-2B guestworker visas, meaning businesses can no longer bring on new migrant workers under the program.
The move comes after the initial unemployment claims spiked by 10 million in two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic – with 6.6 million in one week alone as businesses across the country conducted mass layoffs.
“DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice,” reads a tweet from DHS.
To clear up various misreporting – DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice. Per the statute, H-2B allocations are set in consultation with @USDOL.
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) April 2, 2020
Notably, the pause came one day after Fox News‘s Tucker Carlson blasted Homeland Security over the increase.
“We’re facing a global calamity that could wreck our economy, fracture our society,” said Carlson, arguing that DHS shouldn’t be offering 35,000 slots for jobs that could go to unemployed Americans.
In early March, the agency announced that it would be boosting H-2B slots after nearly 100,000 workers were requested for just 33,000 remaining slots, according to Law360.
Of those extra visas, 10,000 were reserved for citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the three countries comprising the Northern Triangle region that have struck deals with the Trump administration to accept U.S. asylum seekers.
Before the virus struck the U.S., national unemployment was low, hovering below 4% in both January and February of this year, when employers submitted requests to the Labor Department for seasonal workers starting in April.
With H-2B visas capped at 66,000 per fiscal year, demand for these temporary visas, which are granted to employers who can show there are no Americans willing or available to fill the jobs, has consistently outstripped supply. –Law360
With the program paused, however, employers who came up short in the Labor Department’s January lottery are out of luck – and might just have to hire Americans.