Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is pleading with the federal government to lift the cap on H-2B Visa workers in order to help the seafood industry here on the Eastern Shore.
Local seafood businesses tell 47 ABC for them, this is a matter of life or death.
“Without the H-2B visas, I would be out of business,” Brian Hall, with GW Hall and Sons Seafood, said. “I don’t gamble, but each January we gamble on whether we’re still going to be a business,” Aubrey Vincent, with Lindy’s Seafood, said. Some local seafood businesses say they’ll out of business if the federal government doesn’t lift the cap on H-2B visa workers soon.
“Year after year I don’t know if we’re going to be open, I don’t know if I can sign contracts with my customers, I don’t know if I can grow my business, my employees don’t know if they can send their children to school or make financial commitments,” Vincent said. H-2B workers come here to the Eastern Shore seasonally from April until November as non-immigrants to work for local seafood businesses, helping to bring food to your table. But the local seafood industry says the number of workers they’re getting isn’t enough. “The demand for H-2B workers, the demand for seasonal workers far outpaces the supply, Congress set the cap in 1992,” Vincent explained.
Business owners tell 47 ABC it’s not always as simple as hiring local workers.
“In our local community right now, there’s not enough people to even fill the job openings we have for just this job position, not including all of the other tons of employers that are hiring,” Vincent said. “We have to use them, because nobody wants to do this job, six months a year, they want a full time job,” Hall said. Business owners add that while the visas bring non-American workers to the States, not having these workers would negatively impact American jobs as well. “There’s going to be a lot of people sitting on the shore not being able to sell their crabs, and a lot of companies close, a lot of American jobs lost,” Jack Brooks with JM Clayton said.
Now, the seafood industry on Delmarva is joining Governor Larry Hogan in urging Congress to act quickly.
“I just wish they would lift this cap, or fix the situation so we don’t have to worry about this every year, how can you run a business every year being in the lottery system? It’s stupid, it needs to be fixed before we’re all out of business,” Hall said. Business owners say they hope a change is made soon so they don’t have to continue on living in limbo. “Who wants to live like this and not knowing if you’re going to be in business the next year? If the lights are going to be out? If you’re going to tell your customers or fisherman that you were going out of business and they’ve got nowhere to go?” Brooks said.