The bar on H-2B visas for workers in the Philippines remain.
Last year, on Jan. 19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security removed the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, and Ethiopia from the H-2B visa program due to the potential for abuse, overstay rates, fraud, human trafficking, and other forms of non-compliance.
The ban was supposed to end last week, Jan. 18, but DHS has elected to retain it.
“The Trump administration announced last Thursday it will continue to bar the use of H-2B visas for workers from the Philippines,” said Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) in his digital newsletter.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for individuals from a particular country to remain eligible for H-2A and H-2B programs, both the country and its beneficiaries working in the United States must demonstrate a continued commitment to upholding the integrity of the U.S. immigration system, fidelity to U.S. laws, and fundamental respect for human rights and public safety.
The Philippines was made ineligible last year because of problems with human trafficking, , according to the Trump administration.
“To get some exception for the Marianas, which historically turns to the Philippines as a source of labor because of proximity, language, and culture, I asked the Department of Homeland Security for specific data on human trafficking of Filipinos in the Marianas or how trafficking had changed in 2018 to warrant the ban beginning in 2019,” Sablan said.
The DHS gave no answer.
According to Sablan, there are H-2B-eligible countries in the region that could supply the CNMI with workers, such as Taiwan or Fiji.
“One of the reasons I worked for, and succeeded in getting enacted, my new law allowing an additional 3,000 CW permits for construction workers was because of the Trump administration’s ban on the Philippines,” Sablan said.
That new law, the Disaster Recovery Workforce Act, allows workers to come to the Marianas from any country on the Department of Homeland Security’s approved list for 2018 to assist in the typhoon recovery work and prepare the islands for future storms.
At that time, the list included the Philippines.