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American Opinion: Well seasoned: Expansion of seasonal work visas is welcome, and Congress should eye reform

Summary: While the numbers rise, the program should improve with stronger efforts to curb exploitation of workers, who often feel that they can’t speak up about employer abuses or predatory recruiters for fear of losing their status. Policymakers should also consider making some visas available for full-year increments; dairy farms, for example, need workers year-round. Get to work.

People wait in line to buy theater tickets in Times Square on April 27, 2022 in New York City.
People wait in line to buy theater tickets in Times Square on April 27, 2022 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/TNS
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Year after year, summer in New York brings picnics in the park, sweltering subway cars, that pervasive garbage smell, and waves of tourists eager to get the full experience of the greatest city in the world. Tourist season here and around the country create both great economic opportunity and great labor need, which is why it’s good news that this summer, the Biden administration is releasing an additional 35,000 H-2B seasonal work visas to U.S. employers.

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American Opinion


These visas are a lifeline for businesses in hospitality, landscaping and other non-agricultural industries that have periodic surges in labor need for which there is not enough from the local workforce. In fact, employers must first certify to the Labor Department that qualified local workers are not available — a task that’s often doable with the national unemployment rate at 3.6%. And the program comes with built-in pay protections to ensure that workers are not underpaid, as undocumented laborers often are.

Of these visas, 11,500 will be set aside for people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti, providing well-paying and recurring work that disincentivizes unauthorized migration and can help them build better lives at home, while employers stateside get reliable labor during a crunch. Everyone wins.

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Congress, which once upon a time had a bipartisan consensus on the value of an international workforce, should endeavor to permanently expand and reform both H-2B and the related H-2A visa program, which can be used for seasonal agricultural work. New York’s robust upstate farm industry — where employees finally have the legal right to organize that always should’ve been theirs — is just one of the agricultural sectors around the country clamoring for more such workers.

While the numbers rise, the program should improve with stronger efforts to curb exploitation of workers, who often feel that they can’t speak up about employer abuses or predatory recruiters for fear of losing their status. Policymakers should also consider making some visas available for full-year increments; dairy farms, for example, need workers year-round. Get to work.

This American Opinion editorial is the opinion of the editorial board of the New York Daily News.
©2022 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com . Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Related Topics: WORKPLACEUNITED STATES
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