Will Latest Presidential Proclamation Hurt Horticulture?

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By: Laurie Flanagan & Craig Regelbrugge

On April 22, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation halting the issuance of new green cards for 60 days. The proclamation applies to foreign nationals seeking permanent resident status who are currently outside the United States. It excludes health care workers and those who are in the country seeking to change their immigration status and does not impact H-2A or H-2B workers. Prior to the proclamation’s issuance, the H-2B Workforce Coalition wrote to the president urging him to exclude H-2B workers. AmericanHort is a co-chair of the H-2B Workforce Coalition.

While the proclamation does not suspend processing of H-2A and H-2B visas, it does call on the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to review current temporary worker programs. It states:

Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.

The proclamation also illustrates the President’s thinking about foreign workers in the current economy. It says:

Furthermore, lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted “open-market” employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy. There is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents by directing those new residents to particular economic sectors with a demonstrated need not met by the existing labor supply. Existing immigrant visa processing protections are inadequate for recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak. The vast majority of immigrant visa categories do not require employers to account for displacement of United States workers. While some employment-based visas contain a labor certification requirement, because visa issuance happens substantially after the certification is completed, the labor certification process cannot adequately capture the status of the labor market today. Moreover, introducing additional permanent residents when our healthcare resources are limited puts strain on the finite limits of our healthcare system at a time when we need to prioritize Americans and the existing immigrant population. In light of the above, I have determined that the entry, during the next 60 days, of certain aliens as immigrants would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.

So while the latest proclamation does not yet affect the H-2 programs, which are vitally important to Horticulture, we may soon see new and additional recruitment obligations or other restrictions proposed. AmericanHort continues to engage with the Administration and stress the important role that these workers play in our industry and the economic recovery.

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