Big Ag Gets What It Wants from the State Department: Cheap Workers

By David North on June 13, 2020

A recent CIS review of State Department visa issuance data shows that while interviews in Mexico for a wide variety of visas have almost been wiped out by the virus crisis, that is distinctly not the case for H-2A seasonal workers that Big Agriculture wants. Unskilled workers in non-ag fields, in the H-2B class, seem to be treated in the same generous way.

The level of issuances in this April was about 90 percent of the H-2A and H-2B volumes of April 2019. Meanwhile, the less favored J-1 category received 0.13 percent of last year's April issuances.

Big Education and even the high-tech companies simply do not have the clout that Big Ag has. The H-2 visas were being issued as tens of millions of U.S. workers became unemployed.

Nonimmigrant Visas Issued in Selected
Categories in Mexico, April 2019 and April 2020

Visa Category Visa April 2019 April 2020
Farm Workers H-2A 32,155 30,157
Non-Farm Unskilled Workers H-2B 10,549 9,252
Exchange Visitors J-1 2,232 3
Students F-1 177 1
College Grad Workers H-1B 167 2
Treaty Traders E-1 33 7

Source: U.S. Department of State, Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Statistics.

Most of the H-2A visas in Mexico are issued at our consulate in Monterrey, which is about 125 miles south of the Texas border. Mexico is home to a large percentage of H-2 workers.

The writer is grateful to CIS intern Jackson Koonce for his research assistance.