Cochran Critical of White House for Imposing Rehashed & Flawed Rules on H-2B Guest Worker Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today criticized the Obama administration for moving forward with costly new rules and regulations for a guest worker visa program important to many seasonal industries in Mississippi and around the country.

The U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled an interim final rule to reinstate the H-2B temporary nonimmigrant worker program, as well as a final rule to establish a prevailing wage methodology regime on employers who use the program. Initial reviews of the rules indicate that the agencies have reverted to regulations opposed by stakeholders and blocked by Congress in recent years.

“The administration is doing a disservice to the H-2B program. For many businesses in Mississippi and across the nation, it provides access to a seasonal workforce that wouldn’t otherwise be available. These new rules could very well put these workers out of reach for the seafood, forestry and other seasonal industries,” Cochran said. “Instead of recognizing that the H-2B program results in more jobs and greater job security for thousands of American workers, the Labor Department has recycled old, burdensome rules that create more red tape and costs for small businesses.”

“The administration had an opportunity to provide a reasonable rule and instead issued policy changes that have already been rejected by the Congress. We need to support American businesses as they work to create jobs in a tepid economy, not hold them back with more unnecessary federal regulations,” he added.

The public has 60 days to comment on the interim final rule to the comprehensive regulatory changes to the H-2B program. The accompanying wage rule, however, is final and will be in effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register. The Labor Department has estimated it will cost over $1.0 billion to comply with the comprehensive rule, not including the wage rule.

Many members of Congress opposed the 2012 comprehensive rule, which was quickly struck down by the courts, and Congress blocked the previously-proposed H-2B wage methodology rule via appropriations process.

In situations where no American workers are available to fill certain seasonable jobs, the H-2B program permits employers anticipating a labor shortage to bring nonimmigrant workers to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs in seafood processing, construction, forestry, hospitality, construction, and many other industries. Economists estimate that for each H-2B worker, 4.64 American jobs are created and/or sustained.