ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Hogan is calling on the Trump administration to reverse a decision to limit the number of visas available through the Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers Program.
The change had a severe impact on last year’s crab season.
Seafood-processing businesses in Maryland could only get a fraction of the visas they need to operate.
Maryland crab picking houses need 500 seasonal workers, usually from Mexico, during the height of crabbing season.
But there’s only a select number of H-2B visas issued to these seasonal workers Last year, 66,000 were issued.
Gov. Hogan said the state’s $355 million seafood industry could not survive under those conditions for a second year.
“The cap has no relevance whatsoever,” Bill Sieling, Executive VP of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, said. “It’s the only one of the immigrant-support groups, like the H-1A farmer group, that has a cap.”
Industry groups say that cap should be based on need, and Governor Hogan agrees.
“It’s really important to push for a long-term solution to this problem,” Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, the Secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said.
Some say H-2B visa holders depress the wages of American workers, but Bill Sieling of the region’s seafood industries association said the temporary workers fill jobs Americans simply don’t want.
“This is an industry that operates on a very, very small margin,” he said. “The real fix would be to just re-write the law.”
If approved, the visa holders do not get a Green Card, but are eligible to stay for work for up to one year.