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Thune: Don’t Jeopardize South Dakota Tourism Industry by Halting Important Work Visas

Letter demands DHS, DOL reach an immediate agreement on H-2B Visa Program

March 9, 2015

Washington, D.C. — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Jeh Johnson and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez calling on the agencies to reach an immediate agreement on issuing important seasonal employment work visas (H-2B) critical to the South Dakota tourism and construction industries. The loss of these employees would have a significant impact on South Dakota’s economy. Last week, DOL began halting all H-2B labor visas after a federal judge ruled the agency was stepping outside its statutory authority.

“Bureaucratic red tape at the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security is jeopardizing South Dakota’s tourism and construction industries,” said Thune. “I’ve heard from several businesses across the state concerned that this standstill in H-2B visas could threaten their ability to fill important seasonal positions ahead of the upcoming tourist season. These agencies have the ability to fix this visa issue before it becomes a problem for industries across the nation, and the time to act is now. I’ll continue to stay in close contact with the DOL and DHS and remain committed to working with South Dakota businesses to get this problem resolved.”

The text of Thune’s letter is below:


March 9, 2015

The Honorable Thomas Perez
Secretary of Labor
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room S-2018
Washington, DC 20210

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Secretaries Perez and Johnson:

It has come to my attention that the Department of Labor (DOL) has ceased processing H-2B visa requests following an injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  South Dakota relies heavily on H-2B visa holders serving as seasonal employees supporting the tourist industry throughout South Dakota, including the Black Hills.  Without the ability to hire such seasonal workers for the upcoming tourist season, many local businesses will be severely impacted, and some may be unable to operate.  H-2B visas are also essential to the construction industry in South Dakota, which contributes significantly to my state’s economy. 

It is my understanding that this issue can be resolved if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues delegation authority for H-2B visas to DOL or if DHS and DOL issue joint H-2B visa regulations together.  I would encourage you to pursue one of these solutions as soon as possible so that employers can prepare for the upcoming tourist season.

I would appreciate a response once you have determined the best solution for resolving this issue.