Wyoming’s U.S. senators joined nearly 140 members of Congress in urging the Trump administration to admit nearly 70,000 more H-2B visa workers in the 2019 fiscal year.
The program brings workers from around the world to fill temporary, nonagricultural jobs in America, from housekeeping to cooking to construction. The federal government caps the number of H-2B visas, an integral piece of Jackson’s seasonal economy, at 66,000 per year — half for April through September and half for October through March.
But in recent years, requests for seasonal workers have been on the rise nationwide, including in Wyoming. Jackson’s demand for H-2B visa-holders roughly doubled from about 230 to about 450 between 2014-15 and 2016-17.
So Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Mike Enzi signed a letter calling on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to let supply rise to meet demand.
“If significant H-2B cap relief is not provided,” the letter states, “there will be severe consequences for seasonal businesses and our economy generally.”
The appropriations package Congress approved in February authorized Nielsen to add nearly 70,000 more visas.
Her department released an additional 15,000 visas in both the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. But the lawmakers argued that these increases “were wholly inadequate to meet the demonstrated, certified needs of our seasonal employers.”
“We strongly urge you,” the letter states, “to use the discretion afforded your office ... to release, without delay and to the greatest extent allowed by law, additional H-2B visas.”