Senator Tills proposes changes to H-2B Visa program

Published: Apr. 5, 2017 at 9:32 PM EDT
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Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis of NC is leading an effort to make changes to a foreign worker visa program.

Lawmakers say the H-2B visa program is vital.

It offers temporary visas for foreign workers in seasonal, non-agricultural work.

Opponents say it comes at a cost.

Josh Denison, Vice President of Labor and Human Resources for Denison Landscaping says without the workers, he couldn't make his business run.

Denison says, "Our guys are our guys. They have been returning to Denison Landscaping for 10, 12, 15 years. In some cases, they're a part of who we are. They are a part of what's made us successful."

But each year, Denison struggles to get 'his guys' back into the U.S. because the program caps the number of workers at 66,000.

That's why he's reaching out to Congress for help.

Senator Tills says, "What we're trying to do is provide certainty for industries that require seasonal workers."

Tillis is introducing legislation that could help ease some of Denison's concerns.

The bill would exempt well-vetted returning H-2B workers from the cap count.

Tillis says, "If we don't have the full network of resources we need to process seafood or to be at fairs, state fairs and a number of other areas, agriculture jobs, then it's going to prevent American workers from being a part of that supply chain."

The H-2B visa program is gaining attention from a bipartisan group of senators here on Capitol Hill who believe it will grow jobs.

But those against the bill don't like these jobs not going to America workers.

Chris Chmielenski, Director of Content and Activism for NumbersUSA, says, "It's going to foreign workers and usually at the expense of wages for American workers."

Chmielenski's group advocates for lower immigration levels.

He says employers should seek American workers first, before hiring foreigners.

But recruiters at Denison Landscaping say they are exhausting all of their options.

Chmielenski says, "When you hear that - it's just that they don't want to pay them the amount that would make the job enticing for those who want to work."

Meanwhile, Tillis and the seven other bipartisan co-sponsors are working to gather more support for their bill.