Efforts to get H-2B Employers to Use Northern Triangle Workers Sputter

A prophecy fulfilled

By David North on May 18, 2022

Last year, Homeland Security tried something interesting and innovative: It told H-2B employers that if they wanted to get more H-2B workers they had to recruit them from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), which is sending so many of the illegal entrants to our southern border, or from Haiti. H-2Bs do unskilled, non-agricultural work.

The idea was that a seasonal work program could take some of the pressure off the southern border without having to do any nasty law enforcement. The underlying notion was that H-2B employers would — deferring to the national interest — change their hiring practices ever so slightly to help solve the border crisis. I wrote at the time that this would probably not work:

Speaking bluntly, most of the H-2B employers are rural, white, English-speaking males, often with Spanish-speaking foremen. Giving them the opportunity to hire new people who are Black and speak neither English nor Spanish will not thrill many of them. So I doubt that there will be much utilization of the Haiti provision.

As to the offer of H-2B visas for strangers from the Northern Triangle, we know that this is not very attractive either. And the employers know that if they do not accept the offer, they can get anyone they want if DHS, again, caves to their whims.

And DHS indeed caved. Once it was clear that few employers were interested in workers from these four nations, it dropped the requirement and let those numbers be used for people from anywhere in the world, which meant primarily Mexico and Jamaica, the employers’ favored nations of recruitment.

We now have visa issuance statistics for March 2020, 2021, and 2022 that support my prophecy more vigorously than I expected. There were no H-2B visas issued to anyone from Haiti in any of these months, none. The number of H-2B visas given to people from the Northern Triangle nations increased by few hundred each, while the increases from the usual sending nations of Mexico and Jamaica grew by the thousands.

You might think that as a group the H-2B users might have noticed the total lack of visas for people from Haiti and twisted the arms of some of their members to hire Haitians so as to avoid negative media coverage like this, but they did not. Here are the numbers:

H-2B Visas Issued to Aliens
of Selected Nations, March
2020, 2021, and 2022

of Origin
El Salvador 101 57 378
Guatemala 248 231 808
Haiti 0 0 0
Honduras 46 123 729
Total for These
Four Nations
395 411 1,915
Jamaica 977 1,483 3,265
Mexico 11,858 18,120 21,228

Source: State Department Monthly Nonimmigrant
Visa Issuance Statistics

JFK’s ringing call apparently has been revised for the H-2B employers of the nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country — unless you are an employer of foreign workers.”