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AILA: Legislation to Provide Emergency Relief to “Save Summer” Introduced

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 04033162 (posted Mar. 31, 2004)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2004
Contact: Judy Golub
jgolub@aila.org (202) 216-2403
OR
Julia Hendrix
jhendrix@aila.org (202) 216-2404

Legislation to Provide Emergency Relief to "Save Summer" Introduced Congress Needs to Act Quickly

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) urges Congress to quickly pass the "Save Summer Act of 2004," introduced today in the House and the Senate. This critical bipartisan legislation would provide an emergency increase for the current fiscal year in the number of H-2B workers who enter the U.S. to perform temporary essential non-agricultural seasonal tasks. Such an increase reflects the need for an immediate fix. Without such a fix, the shortages American employers will experience will leave many with no option other than to shut their doors. In turn, this lack of access to H-2B workers could be devastating to certain industries and communities nationwide.

H-2B workers include restaurant, landscape, food production, hotel workers, and many others. They fill important seasonal niche occupations. These workers receive their visas only after state employment agencies certify that specific employers have been unable to secure enough U.S. workers to fill jobs despite significant outreach and recruitment efforts. Traditionally, 66,000 H-2B visas are available for each fiscal year. However, this year the government announced that it will not accept any more new applications for the H-2B visa program only 6 months into FY 2004, leaving summer employers stranded. This is the first time the H-2B cap has been officially hit, and the Department of Homeland Security did not give employers any advance warning.

Tourism from Maine to Alaska, the fishing industry in the Northwest, swimming pool management companies across America, catfish and timber industries in Louisiana, crab processors in North Carolina, and the shrimp industry in the Southeast are but a few of the industries that depend on the H-2B visa program to bring in needed workers.

"Unless Congress takes action immediately, many employers will be left with no option other than shutting their doors," states Palma Yanni, President of AILA. "In turn, the lack of access to H-2B workers will economically devastate industries and communities nationwide and disrupt the vacation plans of hard-working American families."

This crisis is happening now because the shortages in certain sectors of the American economy are getting worse due to several factors. The demand for workers to fill service sector jobs is increasing. In some cases, Americans are unwilling to engage in low-skilled seasonal employment. In other cases, as in the fishing industry, Americans do not have the specific skills to perform some specialized functions that are necessary for foreign markets. In addition, many of these seasonal jobs would require Americans to move for a summer to a remote location, a move many are unwilling to make. Despite employers' efforts through welfare-to-work, school-to-work and other initiatives, employers find they need H-2B workers to fill seasonal vacancies.

"The H-2B visa program is a vital component of many seasonal industries in America," continued Yanni. "This visa helps keep jobs here by providing additional manpower to American employers during their peak seasons. Restaurants, hotels, the fishing industry, fighting forest fires - these industries and jobs are based here in the U.S. and will remain here. But, with out the vitally needed H-2B workers, they will suffer or even shut down for the season."

AILA commends Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Snowe (R-ME), Leahy (D-VT), Gregg (R-NH), Jeffords (I-VT), Murkowski (R-AK), Sarbanes (D-MD), Collins (R-ME), Murray (D-WA), Stevens (R-AK), Edwards (D-NC), McCain (R-AZ), Daschle (D-SD), Sununu (R-NH) and Enzi (R-WY); and Representatives Delahunt (D-MA), Young (R-AK), Gilchrest (R-MD), Simmons (R-CT), Allen (D-ME), Van Hollen (D-MD), Serrano (D-NY), Bordallo (D-GU), Jones (R-NC), Ortiz (D-TX), and Cannon (R-UT) for introducing this urgently needed legislation and urges its immediate passage into law. Without such a stop-gap measure to resolve this crisis, the economies of communities that depend on the availability of a summer workforce will dramatically suffer. This quick fix must be followed by the more lasting solution that can be achieved only through comprehensive immigration reform.

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the DHS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

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