A recent press release from Congressman William Keating’s office outlined an exchange the congressman had with Director of Homeland Security John Kelly over H-2B visas during a June 7 hearing in Washington. In the exchange, the two differed on the intent of Congress in granting Mr. Kelly the discretion to enlarge the current pool of H-2B visa workers.
Rep. Keating asked Mr. Kelly why more progress hadn’t been made in increasing worker volume in the H-2B visa program. Rep. Keating pointed out that Congress recently empowered Mr. Kelly’s office to boost the number of H-2B visa workers from 66,000 up to 129,000.
“What I took from that was the sense of the Congress was not to expand it,” Mr. Kelly said, according to a transcript provided by Rep. Keating’s office, “because if it was that important, the Congress would have authorized 129,000.” Mr. Kelly went on to say that “a very large number” of congressional members are against an increase because it will threaten American jobs.
“Mr. Secretary,” Rep. Keating said, “there’s a huge bipartisan support for this, and may I respectfully say there’s no U.S. jobs lost in this respect. These are jobs that frankly can’t be filled.”
Rep. Keating went onto say, “There’s no security interest. These are returning workers; some of them have been coming back and forth for 20 years.”
After the hearing, Rep. Keating lamented Secretary Kelly’s viewpoint on the matter: “It is concerning that Secretary Kelly and the department could interpret it to mean that Congress did not want to increase the number of H-2B workers, when the provision specifically gave him the authority to do just that,” Mr. Keating said. “This is not a trivial issue, this is a matter of many seasonal, small businesses being able to open in time for their high season. The revenues made now are what keep these businesses afloat.”