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FROM THE HILL


2019 FEDERAL FUNDING AGREEMENT REACHED; LANGUAGE INCLUDED TO RELEASE ADDITIONAL H-2B VISAS AT THE DISCRETION OF THE ADMINISTRATION


    


Early in the morning on Feb. 14, Senate and House leadership released the final legislative text of the FY 2019 spending package that was set to expire at midnight. The final text includes a provision that provides the Depart- ment of Homeland Security (DHS) the discre- tionary authority to release an additional 69,320 H-2B visas “upon the determination that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied.” The 69,320 plus 66,000 would set a potential 135,320 cap for FY 2019, which if this occurs, would be a significant win for the landscape industry. Unfortunately, this discretionary language


was included in the same spending measure last year and DHS Secretary Nielsen only released an additional 15,000 visas and waited until May 25, which was too far into the season to maximize their impact. NALP sent a letter to the heads of the Department of Labor and


 that a “deal in principle” had been reached on the most controversial issues, primarily border wall  the release of the bill text, leadership and appropriators huddled in  coalition allies continued to push every available avenue to include a returning worker exemption or change the DHS language from discretionary 


38 THE LANDSCAPE PROFESSIONAL > MARCH/APRIL 2019


Department of Homeland Security after Presi- dent Trump signed the FY 19 funding legisla- tion this afternoon. In addition, NALP will be scheduling meetings with officials from each the DHS and DOL and are currently leveraging our champions on Capitol Hill to weigh-in with the Departments, along with the White House, urging for an immediate release of up to 135,320 visas. On Feb. 11, leadership announced that a “deal in principle” had been reached on the most controversial issues, primarily border wall funding. Between Feb. 11 night and the release of the bill text, leadership and appro- priators huddled in negotiations as NALP and our H-2B coalition allies continued to push every available avenue to include a returning worker exemption or change the DHS lan- guage from discretionary “may” to mandatory “shall.” During the negotiations there were times we had been told that even the discretionary language had been excluded due to a desire to avoid all “immigration riders.” In the end, we received the discretionary language. This was disappointing, but cer- tainly not defeat. Due to the political climate, many important and bipartisan issues were completely excluded from the bill in order to keep the government open. Maintaining the discretionary language gives us the opportunity to continue to make the case with the Adminis- tration on why they should immediately release additional visas. We will also be highlighting the devastating impacts of what occurred last summer without additional visas, coupled with complete dysfunction and processing failures with the DOL iCERT system to make a more compelling argument than in 2018. Please stay tuned for additional opportunities to engage DHS and DOL in the very near future as we will put the full court press once we have made an initial communication with both Departments.


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