An extension of the H-2B visa program has been welcomed by many small business owners who depend on hiring immigrant season guest workers.
This year, under the Trump administration, the program was capped at 66,000 visas and was not extended. Last year, more than 13,000 workers were approved under the returning workers exemption, according to an article posted on NBCDFW.com.
North Texas landscaping company owner Chris Austin joined several other small business owners in Washington D.C. to speak with state senators urging them to reverse the decision and revive the program.
“They weren’t really showing a lot of support for it,” said Austin regarding the response from Texas senators. “The climate right now is anti-immigration, but the people that are making a lot of the laws aren’t really on the ground floor of what is going on."
t has been a brutal summer for Austin. This summer, he tried to hire locally but experienced a 20% turnover rate.
“We lost $70,000 in the spring," he said. "I was an emotional wreck. It was such a beating every single day. Revenues were off, and profits were way off."
President Trump has criticized worker visa programs, insinuating the programs advocate cheap labor and take jobs away from the American workers. A starting wage for employees at C&T Lawns is $12.61.
“If we can’t get the H-2B guys, we’re going to have to reduce full-time workers," Austin said. "People think it’s just bringing in workers. No, those workers create additional jobs. They sustain other full-time labor.”
Congress extended the H-2B visa program for 15,000 more workers in July. Some small business owners expressed regret that the decision came late in the summer. Austin, who was approved for 14 visas, said there is still time to save his American dream.
“Hopefully the rest of this year will stay that same way," he said. "When I spoke to the 14 men who are coming they are relieved as well. They were all very happy. It was long overdue for them. They can’t wait to get back to work. Just like anybody else they just want to provide for their family.”