U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has, again, cut off the flow of foreign workers to service sector employers. In a January 4th press release, USCIS declared it had received enough H-2B guest worker petitions to meet the congressionally mandated cap of 66,000 workers, according to the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA). The H-2B visa program permits employers to hire foreign workers to perform temporary nonagricultural work that is seasonal or intermittent.
Addressing what the USCIS action means to the green industry, ANLA director of legislative relations, John Meredith stated, “We expect an even larger number of landscape and landscape distribution businesses to be negatively impacted than when the program was shut down in March 2004. The fact the cap was hit earlier this year than last underscores the urgent need to find a permanent solution to the problem while comprehensive reform is being developed.”
ANLA is using its position as co-chair of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition’s H-2B Subcommittee to reach out to program users in a variety of sectors in an effort to organize the advocacy effort that is seeking congressional relief from the cap.
That effort has already begun within the green industry. ANLA is partnering with the newly formed Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) to develop a common goal, message and coordination of grassroots activity that can serve as a model to the larger general business community.
“The H-2B program is vital to PLANET membership,” stated Tom Delaney, director of government affairs for PLANET. “As part of the biggest industry user of the program, the green industry needs leaders like ANLA and PLANET working together and with other effected industries to solve the economic hardship the program cap causes both employers and customers.” For more information or to help increase the amount of workers please contact John Meredith at ANLA at (202) 789-2900 or visit www.anla.org .