Saturday, March 1, 2008

Small Businesses Make Final Push to Save H-2Bs

Over 120 members of the Save Small Business (SSB) advocacy group descended on Washington last week in a final push to convince Congress to pass legislation that will free additional H-2B guest worker visas. Although SSB members reported that Congress is unlikely to pass a bill before the two week Easter and Passover break, they remain hopeful of a breakthrough. Their efforts center on the Save Small Business Act, which would make the H-2B returning-worker exemption permanent. To date, their efforts have been stifled by the greater immigration debate and opposition from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The 21-member caucus has opposed any piecemeal immigration-related legislation, preferring to pass these measures only in a comprehensive bill.

The H-2B visa allows U.S. employers to hire skilled and unskilled foreign workers to work in seasonal and peak businesses. On Long Island, this includes primarily summer business such as pool and landscaping companies as well as resort related business in the Hamptons. Congress has set a numerical cap at 66,000 H2B visas a year and that cap was reached the first week in January. This means no additional workers will be approved to start before October 1, 2008.

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