Rep. Andy Harris Seeks Solutions with Seafood Owners for H-2B Visa Lottery Flaws
WOOLFORD, Md.- Congressman Andy Harris visited Lindy's Seafood in Woolford on Wednesday afternoon to discuss issues local seafood leaders have with the H-2B lottery system.
Harris, who represents Maryland's First District, which includes all of the state's Eastern Shore, discussed a couple of possible solutions for next year to improve some of the flaws business owners see with the new program. One of which, includes rationing all lottery distribution so that every business gets a portion of the needed seasonal workers. Another, is to classify the pickers as H-2A workers to eliminate the capped number of visas.
"One possibility that we still have to discuss with the administration is actually taking the seafood processing workers out of the H-2B program, which has a quota and a cap. Then putting them into H-2A which has slightly different rules, but doesn't have a cap," Harris said.
Aubrey Vincent, owner of Lindy's, says the lottery system puts some businesses in a bad position without workers, while others are fully staffed for the season.
"As an industry there's only so much that we're going to be able to continue to roll with, without some type of long-term solution," Vincent said.
Businesses like G.W. Hall & Sons Seafood on Hoopers Island have all of the workers they requested from the lottery, but owner Robin Hall says it's an unfair system.
"It bothers me, just as much as it's bothering the people here, that they don't have their workers and I have mine," Hall said. "Because I want us all to get them. We should all have them."
Harris says before thinking about how to change the lottery for next year, he is trying to save what's left of this crabbing season for the local businesses suffering.
A part of the discussion on Wednesday also included potential timelines on when the extra 15,000 workers, announced on Friday, could get into some of these vacant crab houses. Harris says he hopes to have the majority into the country by late June.
Vincent says the application process to request the extra seasonal workers begins on Thursday. Lindy's says if they aren't granted extra pickers by the middle of June, they'll be forced to let go of more than 100 American workers from their business.