Following a press conference last week where East End business owners called on federal officials to increase the number of foreign workers allowed to come to the United States for seasonal employment, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced Friday the department would authorize an additional 30,000 H-2B visas nationwide in 2019.
However, in a press release issued late last week, Congressman Lee Zeldin said the federal government needs to offer business owners on Long Island long term stability.
“I applaud the Secretary of Homeland Security for lifting the cap on H-2B visas for the remainder of this year to help ensure Long Island employers get the seasonal workers they need,” said Congressman Zeldin. “However, the fight isn’t over. Suffolk County businesses have experienced uncertainty year after year and they need stability and consistency for the seasons ahead. I look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of these hardworking Long Islanders so they can continue to grow their businesses in our community and strengthen our local economy.”
Mr. Zeldin gathered with local business owners late last month, calling on the Department of Homeland Security to raise the H-2B visa program, which allows foreign workers to legally come to the United States on a seasonal basis. He also called on the department to create long-term solutions for agricultural and non-agricultural seasonal visa programs.
“It’s no secret that our sleepy little hamlet of Montauk has become a well-known and extremely popular vacation destination. Each year, thanks to our residents and loyal visitors, hundreds of millions of dollars in spending are generated just by the accommodations, food and beverage and retail industries in our little hamlet,” President of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce Paul Monte said during the press conference. “Over the past 10 years it has become increasingly difficult to find homegrown labor to fill our seasonal positions; and now with our booming economy and record low unemployment it is almost impossible. The solution to this ongoing problem has been the H-2B Visa, guest worker program. This program is the lifeblood of our resort town and many others just like it throughout America. Without the seasonal workers provided by this program many businesses would be forced to scale back on their services or, in some cases, actually close their doors for good.”
“As a business owner, the ability to provide for my customers during peak season is reliant on the workforce provided through the H-2B Visa Program,” John Tortorella, the owner of Tortorella Pools in Southampton, said last week. “In addition to lifting the current H-2B visa cap, there are vital reforms that must be made to the underlying program so business owners like myself don’t have to worry about having the labor we need season after season.”