It was the second year in a row that DHS agreed to allocate an extra 15,000 guest worker visas, on top of the 66,000 annual cap established by Congress. Lawmakers have granted DHS the authority to exceed the cap, and in recent weeks they have urged Nielsen to allow more foreigners to alleviate the tight labor market, with the unemployment rate at 3.9 percent.
The H-2B visas are for foreigners who take seasonal jobs in seafood, tourism, landscaping, construction and others industries — but not farmworkers. Critics of the guest worker program say such jobs should pay more to attract more teenagers and American workers who have dropped out of the labor force.
In a statement, DHS said Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen determined that not enough “qualified, U.S. workers [were] available . . . to satisfy the needs of American businesses.”