U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany yesterday introduced legislation to increase the number of temporary, or H-2B, workers allowed in the country to perform seasonal work for small businesses.
“The current H-2B visa shortage is a crisis for small businesses in Southwest Louisiana and around the country,” Boustany said. He called for Congress to renew its commitment to small businesses and quickly increase the legal limit for these seasonal workers, like crawfish peelers who work in the country for six months before returning to their home country. "American small businesses and entrepreneurs depend on these temporary workers, in the country legally, to fill untaken jobs,” the congressman said.
Boustany introduced H. Res. 1025, providing for immediate consideration of Michigan Democratic U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak’s returning worker bill, which increases the number of potential H-2B workers. H. Res. 1025 was referred to the Rules Committee. If the House Rules Committee fails to pass the bill, the Boustany measure is eligible for a discharge petition after seven legislative days.
The H-2B visa program provides legal, seasonal workers with the opportunity to come to America on a temporary basis and provide labor to the small and seasonal businesses that drive many of our nation’s local economies.
On Jan. 2, 2008, the cap for critical H-2B visas was reached, crippling many small businesses and agricultural communities around Acadiana and the country that now lack access to essential workers they have depended on year after year. Nationwide, approximately half of the needed workers are currently available for unfilled jobs. More than 120,000 H-2B workers came into the United States legally last year. This year’s total allotment of 66,000 H-2B visas was met in early January.
For more on how local business people are feeling the pinch from the federal cap on these workers, read Acadiana Business' March cover story.