Local Businesses Feel The Impact Of Fewer Legal Foreign Temporary Workers

Many seasonal small businesses across eastern Carolina, like the rest of the country, say they face the possibility of closing this summer. It's all due to a change in a legal way those businesses were allowed to hire temporary foreign workers.

Some of those businesses, like Grandy Farm Market in Currituck County, haven't even opened their doors yet this season because of it. Colin Grandy's business of 21 years sits empty as he waits for those workers. They come here on temporary worker permits known as H2B visas, after passing a criminal background check. This year...no workers.

Whitecap Linen in Columbia in Tyrrell County, which services many of the Outer Banks hotels and cottages, is in the same boat. Whitecap Linen General Manager Rick Foister says, "This year we had requested for them to come in the first of April. As it stands right now we won't be getting any of those employees."

Here's the problem. The U.S. Grants 66,000 of the H2B visas a year. They go to the states that need the workers first. This year the visas are already gone. There had been an exemption for temporary workers who had been here before, meaning they did not count against that cap, and could return to where they previously worked. That exemption has expired and Congress has not renewed it. Those who rely on the workers say Hispanic lawmakers are blocking a vote on the legislation, as they push for immigration reform, including amnesty for people here illegally. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, representing those lawmakers, argues such visa programs protect the employer, at the expense of the worker.

Sherri Carawan of Mattamuskeet Seafood in Hyde County fears her business will close if there is no resolution. She has been lobbying Congress to take action. She told lawmakers, "You're alseep now, but you wait until May and June when all the summer peak load businesses are scrambling to hold onto their businesses then and then you're going to wake-up."

While the H2B program is a legal way for foreigners to come to the United States to work those temporary jobs and then return home, there are those who are against the visas altogether. Critics argue they take jobs away from Americans, and if employers paid more, Americans would take them.

The employers who rely on H2B workers say the wages are set by the Employment Security Commission and that they are largely low-wage, low-skilled jobs that are only going to pay so much. They say it's kind of a catch-22. They could pay more, but that cost would then be passed onto consumers who may not buy those goods and services.

As for hiring locally, Whitecap Linen has a sign in front of its business but is having no luck. Foister says, "The people that we find that come to put in applications, they just don't stay at the job. They will work a few hours, maybe they'll work a day and we don't see em back again." Carawan says she can't find any workers either for the temporary jobs.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by american Location: va on May 26, 2008 at 04:15 AM
    offer more money THAT IS THE AMERICAN WAY
  • by BIG J Location: SNOWHILL on May 7, 2008 at 01:46 PM
    Pay some money,,,you will get people to do the work.
  • by Anonymous on May 6, 2008 at 08:00 PM
    To Winterville, these people should stay here only if they are legal. Otherwise they should go back where they came from. You should calm down and stop shouting at other people that have the right to say what they feel without you calling them names. wow, what a temper.
  • by Anonymous Location: Winterville on May 6, 2008 at 06:28 PM
    GET REAL AMERICA - THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT TAKING JOBS AWAY FROM ANYONE BECAUSE THERE ARENT ANY AMERICANS APPLYING FOR THESE JOBS!!!!!!! GET OFF YOUR HIGH SOAP BOX - ALLOW THESE PEOPLE TO PAY THEIR TAXES AND CONTRIBUTE TO THE TAX BASE OF PITT CO.. AND BY THE WAY - WHERE IS ALL THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHRISTIAN LOVE - YOU ALL ARE HYPOCRITIES........... SEE YOU AT THE SEX SHOPS AND ABC STORES...........JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED

    Editor's Note: Please type all posts in upper and lower cases. No SHOUTING please.

  • by Anonymous on May 6, 2008 at 07:55 AM
    YOU know all of these school aged kids and sorry folks who sit home a mooch off of welfare should be given these jobs over the ILLEGALS who are brought over to do these jobs. If they are "jobs no one wants" persay then MAKE the people on welfare get off their sorry A**es and do these jobs instead of having to bring in ILLEGALS... Maybe our next prez will do that NOT!!!
  • by chris Location: greenville on May 6, 2008 at 04:35 AM
    Oh, no they have no legal migrant workers. American businesses that hire migrant workers should have their license stripped from them. What is the Employment Security Commission's purpose? American workers should have the first shot at American jobs. Where has our work ethic gone?Able body people on welfare should be made to take these jobs or lose benefits. It just saddens me that our great nation does nothing to stop this injustice, they encourage this stupidity. In the effort to be sensitive to the "Latino Americans" HA , what a crock.
  • by AS Location: NC on May 5, 2008 at 01:24 PM
    Did you forget we have school children that need jobs and they are legel. Why is it so important to hire illegals when our children need summer jobs. Do you just not want to support our own? What is the problem????
  • by american Location: va on May 5, 2008 at 09:18 AM
    pay more money
  • by just curious Location: nc on May 5, 2008 at 07:10 AM
    HMMM summer jobs. School age kids needing summer work. Thats an idea. Why do all of these companies think they need these ILLEGALS to do summer work?
  • by joe six pack Location: williamston on May 3, 2008 at 03:37 PM
    I think most Americans would not object to the temporary worker idea accept that it's not temporary. They come here and never leave. We (the tax payers) are paying for their medical expenses and other social services as well as providing bilingual teachers and forcing our children to learn Spanish. Do you enjoy having to listen and look at Spanish subtitle's with everything? Exactly how bad does it have to get before elected leaders who have sold us out time and again with their liberal immigration policies acknowledge the problem. We need to harshly fine all buisness's that knowingly hire illegals. We need tight regulations on guest worker programs and a strict enforcment of how long they stay here.
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