It was one of the few good ideas coming from Homeland Security this year -- to set aside 6,000 of the visas in the H-2B program (for non-skilled, non-agricultural workers) for H-2B employers who recruited those workers in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The general idea was that such jobs would ease some of the pressure on the southern border.
H-2B employers do not routinely hire many people from the Northern Triangle; they prefer Mexicans or Jamaicans, for example. The employers were not told that they had to hire from those nations, but they were given the opportunity to use some of the 6,000 slots from those places. They should have been mandated to hire from those nations, but DHS does not like to be demanding of employers.
The first backward step was an announcement earlier this month by DHS that if the 6,000 slots were not used as suggested that they would make the visa slots available to any H-2B employer.
We got the news of the second backward step with the predictable timing, Friday afternoon, July 23. Employers had not used up all the 6,000 slots, as suggested, so the same employers could now use the unused slots to hire from anywhere else in the world. How many of those visas went to waste? DHS isn’t telling. Its press release said:
USCIS did not receive enough petitions to reach the 6,000 visas allocated for workers from Northern Triangle countries by the July 8 deadline. According to the temporary final rule, the few remaining visas are now available to eligible H-2B returning workers, regardless of their country of origin.
In other words, the whims (national origin preferences) of H-2B employers will be bowed to, and the national interest in keeping people from charging over the Rio Grande will be ignored.