Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski surprised many by voting against the proposed US visa regulations.
15 June 2012
Senators block employer US visa requirements
An Appropriations Committee in the American Senate has voted against new US visa regulations designed to protect foreign workers from exploitation.
The committee voted 19-11 to block the Obama administration's efforts to add legislation to US visa policy which would require employers hiring foreign workers to cover transport costs and visa fees.
The proposed US immigration rules also required that employers must pay workers 75% of a contract regardless of the amount of work as well as advertise for American workers 21 days before the work begins before hiring foreign labour and, if a qualified American should apply for the position, the employer must hire the American.
The opposing senators, which included four Democrats, sided with businesses which argue that the costs involved would damage business while American workers are more likely to quit manual jobs, leaving employers without the time to find replacements.
"These rules are grossly misguided and will have a serious adverse impact on businesses across the nation who benefit from the H-2B visa program," said Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who led the effort to block the rules.
"This is another case of out of touch Washington bureaucrats sitting behind a desk implementing regulations that are prohibitively expensive and logistically impossible."
Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, who shocked many by also voting to block the regulations, said the seafood industry in her state of Maryland depended on the ability to quickly hire reliable labour when the seasonal, and often unpredictable, work comes in.
"The 21 day rule, my seafood industry needs to know who's coming," said Senator Mikulski. "It's unfair to the Latino ladies who go by the rules because they need to know: 'Are they going to come? When are they going to come?'.
"We need to have rules that are workable, whistle-blower protections as well. And most of all, we need a Department of Labor that understands the industry."
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.