Donald Trump, US president will make it easier for certain temporary foreign workers who are “essential to the United States food supply chain” to remain in the US by temporarily amending visa requirements.
The regulation, soon to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, applies to H-2B visas intended for temporary seasonal workers and is designed to help United States employers who rely on foreign workers. Eligible employers who are concerned workers will not be able to enter the US due to travel restrictions put in place as a result of coronavirus pandemic can employ those already in the US with a certain visa status.
By temporarily amending visa requirements, foreign workers already in the US will be allowed to remain without first returning to their home countries and can begin work right away without waiting for full approval, making it easier for US employers who can not employ workers from abroad to pick from the pool in the country.
In April, the Department of Homeland Security made similar modifications for temporary foreign workers directly working in the agriculture sector.
Some of the jobs affected by the latest change could include the manufacturing, processing, and packaging of human and animal food; manufacturing or processing plants or transporting food from farms; and the selling of food, including restaurants.
The recent move follows President Donald Trump’s executive order in April restricting green cards. Stephen Miller, Trump’s lead immigration adviser who has led the push to limit immigration during the COVID-19 pandemic, cast that order as a first step towards cutting down the flow of immigrants, according to an administration official.
Since then, the presidential aides have been developing follow-up actions to cut down on the number of guest workers — a key exemption from the April order. H-2B visas, which allow employers to bring temporary foreign workers to the United States for temporary non-agricultural related jobs, such as hospitality, landscaping and other sectors, were among the visa categories being assessed.
Trump’s political advisers sees the immigration steps as motivating for his political base supporters at a moment when the President’s key election message — a strong economy — is badly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that the US economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, the significantly sharpest and biggest fall since the government began tracking the data in 1939.
Joseph Edllow, deputy director for policy at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced Tuesday that the new regulations will prioritize both American workers and the economy.
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“These necessary flexibility will safeguard a critical U.S. infrastructure sector; strengthen security of the nation’s food supply chain; and encourage key American businesses to maintain essential operations now threatened by the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Edllow said in a statement.
“More importantly, these measures protect U.S. seasonal workers by not adding supplemental H-2B visas during the national emergency.”