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 work together to alleviate the current backlog of H-2B visa applications and immediately reinstate the premium processing service for H-2B petitions. Earlier this month, DOL began halting all H-2B labor visas after a federal judge ruled the agency was stepping outside its statutory authority. Last week Thune called on DOL and DHS to take immediate steps to resume the processing of H-2B visas.
Since then, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted a motion permitting DOL to begin issuing temporary labor certificates under the H-2B visa program. While the judge’s ruling is good news for South Dakota employers, the temporary injunction has already caused a backlog in processing that may take some time to resolve. Thune’s letter calls for DOL to resume premium processing of H-2B visas, which should not only help address the backlog, but should also expedite many of the applications, ensuring seasonal positions for the upcoming tourist and construction seasons are filled.
“We’re talking about numerous South Dakota businesses across multiple industries being hamstrung by the Obama administration’s poor planning and lack of foresight—and that’s totally unacceptable,” said Thune. “While I’m pleased H-2B visas are being processed again to ensure South Dakota businesses are able to fill important seasonal positions ahead of the upcoming tourist and construction season, we need to address the backlog as quickly as possible and that means reinstating the premium processing service for H-2B petitions. I’ll continue to stay in close contact with DOL and DHS and remain committed to working with South Dakota businesses to ensure DOL reinitiates premium processing as soon as possible.”
Thune encourages South Dakota employers to stay in contact with his office about the delays they are experiencing.
The text of the senator’s letter is below:
March 20, 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
Dear Secretaries Perez and Johnson:
As you know, on March 18, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, in Perez v. Perez, granted a motion permitting the Department of Labor (DOL) to begin issuing temporary labor certificates under the H-2B visa program. Although the court’s ruling allows adjudication of H-2B visas to recommence, the temporary injunction has already caused a backlog in processing that may take time to resolve. Additionally, despite this ruling, the premium processing option for H-2B visas has yet to be reinstated, which means employers who need workers for the upcoming tourist and construction seasons in South Dakota may not be able to fill these positions in time.
For this reason, I request that DOL and the Department of Homeland Security work to alleviate this backlog and immediately resume premium processing for H-2B visas. Please let me know your respective departments’ projected timelines for recommencing the premium processing option for H-2B visas.