DHS Announces New H-2B Temporary Rule
By Preston Huennekens | FAIR Take | May 2020
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new temporary rule lessening some restrictions on H-2B temporary guestworkers.
The rule, published in the Federal Register on May 14th, gives H-2B workers greater flexibility to change jobs and allows them to remain in the United States without having to return to their home country. The pause in the “touchback” provision nearly mirrors the H-2A temporary rule issued on April 22. And, just as in the H-2A temporary rule, DHS justifies this new announcement by claiming that it will protect “services essential to the U.S. food supply chain.”
The rule change is effective immediately and lasts until May 2023, potentially allowing thousands of H-2B workers to remain in the U.S. without touching back in their home countries well after the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Why DHS made this effective until 2023 is unclear. Their similar H-2A rule expires in 2020. This move also incentivizes businesses using H-2B workers to simply renew their visas under these relaxed rules, rather than trying to employ one of the 36.5 million Americans out of work. This rule also eases the restrictions on H-2B workers to move to a new job in an essential industry, and particularly food processing.
Easing the restrictions on guestworker programs makes little sense given that nearly a quarter of the pre-coronavirus workforce is now unemployed. Worse, this rule lasts until 2023 — potentially years after the end of the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis. FAIR continues advocating for the cessation of all guestworker programs in order to help Americans regain work and opportunities.