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Apr 3, 2012 5:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Latest Round Of Changes To Immigration Rules Heighten Hassles For Business

Apr 3, 2012 5:50 PM

The latest set of proposed new rules governing a work visa used by many East End companies to import summer workers from foreign countries once again threatens the important resource for many business owners, says an attorney who represents a number of the businesses.

The H-2B was widely used by East End businesses for some 20 years to help fill the ranks of menial and physical labor staff needed to keep various employers—including landscapers, swimming pool cleaners and hotels—adequately staffed to deal with the busy summer seasons. But in the last five years, the visa program has been caught up in the broader immigration debate, and attempts at the federal level to do away with the H-2B visas altogether or to tweak their requirements have made the program increasingly inviable for small business, leaving many employers without workers they had employed for many years.

“Now we’ve got new rules going into effect again in a couple weeks—additional protections, additional costs to the employers,” said attorney Melinda Rubin, who has facilitated the visa applications for employers, a role that has evolved into advocating for small-business owners to the Department of Labor. “We don’t have the problems they’re trying to protect against. The real abuses are of people who are here illegally. I really think they’re trying to make rules that make H-2B unusable by people who are trying to do the right thing.”

Among the new rules set to go into effect later this month is one that would require the employer to pay travel and meal expenses for their workers in addition to their wages. The new rules also expand the effort and expense an employer must dedicate to advertising the job to American workers before applying for an H-2B visa for a foreign worker, and assurances of hours worked by the employee once they are in the United States.

Ms. Rubin, who has a law practice in Hampton Bays, said that the intentions of the new rules may be to protect workers from unscrupulous bosses, but the practical effect is on small-business owners who care for their employees so well that they have the same workers seeking to return to work for them every summer.

“The ones who are hurt are small-business owners in Nantucket, Maine, the Hamptons—the ones who need workers for jobs that nobody here wants, and they want to do the right thing,” she said. “It’s silly that this is attacked by people who are against illegal immigration. If we had a program where people could come and work and then go home and come back legally, and they knew about it, you would cut back on some of the border crossing.”

A proposal to kill the H-2B altogether in 2008 was derailed in part due to the intervention of U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and other members of Congress from areas where businesses rely on the seasonal visa program. Last fall, a proposal that would have forced H-2B employers to more than double their wages paid to visa workers died when its enforcement was defunded by Congress, a technical loophole. Ms. Rubin believes the cat is running out of lives this time around but said that Rep. Bishop’s office has been working to again combat changes to the program.

Employers have said the H-2B presents them with a unique opportunity to hire less costly laborers who are willing to do jobs most Americans are not—particularly in an area where costs of living are prohibitively high—and get the same workers back year after year, so they don’t need to spend time and resources training each season. Employers who are able to count on a labor force each year that is inexpensive and know their jobs right out of the gate, Ms. Rubin said, have been able to expand their businesses and add positions that pay enough that Americans will apply for them.

“But the government doesn’t look at those kind of statistics,” she said. “The Department of Labor is so focused on what they’re doing, they don’t talk to normal businesses and ask what works for them.”

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Hey...where is Cpt America and the other immigrant haters on this site?
Now we are seeing the real beneficiaries of the undocumented workers...it's the business owners. It is about time they have been made a part of this conversation.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Apr 12, 12 7:03 PM
Nine days later, and still nothing?

Maybe they really do see employed people as a negative integer. Could be Vanek has something there...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 12, 12 9:35 PM
"Among the new rules set to go into effect later this month is one that would require the employer to pay travel and meal expenses for their workers in addition to their wages. The new rules also expand the effort and expense an employer must dedicate to advertising the job to American workers before applying for an H-2B visa for a foreign worker, and assurances of hours worked by the employee once they are in the United States."

I don't see anything unreasonable about that. If there are ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 13, 12 8:54 AM
True, but as the cost of labor increases the cost of goods and services increase. At some point there is equilibrium, and at some point there is not. I'm sure seasonal businesses, with a very small window of profit making opportunity, try to maximize their profits as much as they can. Read that as keeping labor costs down as much as possible. So there is a line there... make a profit / treat people fairly. Some do and some don't. You have to be careful though in not making illegal hiring the better ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 13, 12 10:45 AM
2 days in a row of respectful dialogue, Phil. There must be something in the air.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 13, 12 10:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
Ehhh.not all of them do. I worked at a resort out here; 10 clams an hour. I was one of a handful of 'natives' and most workers had 2 jobs going into May, June. 10 clams isn't enough..sigh..
p.s I like your profile pic. where'd u get it?
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 12 11:53 AM
Can't seem to reply to double standard. No one is winning, when business owners choose cheap labor over paying a fair wage. They'll pass over a local experienced grill-chick to save their bottom line, every time. I've applied at the local delis, etc...they never call but I'll see someone new in there and 10 out of 10 it's not anyone local. I can't call them 'illegal' or I'll get in trouble, but it's true.
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 12 1:43 PM
That's true, and I understand as a businessowner you have to take care of your bottom line, but it still sucks.
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Apr 14, 12 1:47 PM
Q: What's the main problem with Barack Obama jokes?
A: His followers don't think they're funny and everyone else doesn't think they're jokes.
By patrickstar (67), hampton bays on Apr 13, 12 4:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'll take my LEGAL RESIDENT employees thank you. Keep the government out of the equation as much as possible,
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 14, 12 5:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Amen, bro..
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Apr 18, 12 5:16 PM
Why use imigrants at all? Most are undocumented (illegal) and should be kicked out of this country. Bisness owners that emloye them should forfeit their businesses if caught. There is plenty of ceap labor available to do those jobs. The government should make all those on welfare and unemployment do these jobs to earn their free taxpayer money.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Apr 29, 12 10:20 AM