Biden’s H2 visa rules are hurting migrants, small businesses
(New York Post Sep 30, 2023) – Seasonal workers are a crucial component to the US economy and employers rely on H-2 visa programs to get them here legally. But new regulations announced by Pres. Biden will make it harder for migrants to obtain H-2s, costing both consumers and small businesses dearly.
President Biden’s decision last week to shield 470,000 Venezuelans from deportation is yet another consequence of his abysmal handling of the nation’s ongoing migrant crisis.
At least it has the benefit of also being consistent: Biden’s most recent migrant policies have been a master class in how to worsen the multiple problems behind his dismal polling numbers.
Burrowed among them is the White House’s recent sabotage of the H-2A and H-2B visa programs — which help employers legally recruit seasonal workers, such as farm-hands and landscapers.
Although mostly unknown beyond labor circles, the visas have an outsized impact on the overall economy.
H-2A workers, for instance, represent a full 10% of America’s agricultural labor force.
And in New York State alone, more than 16,000 H-2 visas were granted between October 2021 and September of 2022.
use for decades, the visas are needed to get migrants working in rural New York communities desperate for short-term labor.
Instead, rules and fees added by Biden have made the visas harder to secure — pushing many migrants to opt for the asylum system to remain in the US.
The result: New Yorkers are subsidizing migrant costs and labor vacancies remain unfilled.
The neglect of crucial seasonal worker programs is an act of both political and policy malpractice. While makeshift migrant encampments nearly burst in Manhattan, countless small and rural businesses are struggling to fill job openings a few hundred miles away.
Those vacancies come at a cost. According to the Heritage Foundation, the nation’s ongoing labor shortage is one of the largest contributors to the headline-making inflation crippling Biden’s approval numbers.
Many of those migrants now crowding New York would happily work — if only they could secure those vital H2 visa. Instead, asylum becomes the only immediate alternative.
As their cases slog through the system, asylum-seekers face a 180-day ban from legally working, further ensuring their dependence on local services.
It’s not that local folks are inherently anti-migrant.
After all, many of those same farm towns have long depended on the H-2 visas Biden has bafflingly restricted.
They just prefer those newcomers to be legal visa holders rather than asylum seekers, who arrive unemployable.
So countless migrants remain idle in New York City, while the state’s most economically depressed areas continue to endure labor shortages.
Under the recent Biden rules, upstate farmers still using the H-2A program could lose tens of thousands of dollars next season. Increased legal costs along with triple the paperwork and mandatory employee tracking systems are just some of the new expenditures.
Even before the new visa rules, farmers were already paying over $10,000 for each worker brought from abroad.
Under this latest regulation, 65% of employers report that they won’t be able to afford agricultural visas at all this year.
Large farms will likely pass the costs on to consumers while many of their smaller counterparts will inevitably shut down – since US workers mostly refuse to fill farm roles.
The result: Households already paying more than 30% of their disposable income on food and groceries will see those cost rise further.
Biden isn’t simply piling more unnecessary red tape on the H-2 programs.
He’s also raising visa fees for employers by more than 130% to pay for those new asylum applications.
Ironic to the core, the increases will especially hurt New York employers who rely on H-2Bs for jobs like landscaping and hospitality.
Given that so many H-2B employers are small businesses, the fee hikes will spur a vicious cycle wherein businesses are priced out of work visas, migrants fail to find legal sponsors and asylum claims continue to snowball — along with their costs to the city.
As asylum claims outnumber work visas, migrants will only further drain local coffers. Which is why Biden should reverse course and fast-track the H2 visa processes.
US businesses — especially in New York — desperately need to access them.
As for migrants, the less incentive they have to claim asylum, the more they’re likely to arrive as lawful workers.
This would reduce costs for small businesses while combating the inflation keeping goods and services so unaffordable.
Biden can address two massive political problems — inflation, and the surge at our southern borders — by making H-2 visas truly attainable. Illegal migration would decline, replaced by migration that is orderly, fair and benefits local tax bases.
Fixing these problems could not be more obvious for businesses struggling to fill jobs and stay afloat (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t involve more arbitrary concessions for Venezuelans or any other group).
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