Recently, President Trump issued several executive orders relating to increased immigration enforcement and border security. These actions will impact many employers, including those in the racing and showing segments of the horse industry, even those that rely on legal foreign workers.
For many years horse farms, horse shows, trainers and others have had difficulty recruiting American workers. This has forced many to rely on foreign workers and utilize both the H-2B non-agricultural and H-2A agricultural temporary foreign worker programs to meet their labor needs even though these programs are often extremely burdensome to use. Additionally, many of the workers employed in the industry may lack legal status.
Most foreign workers in the industry are directly responsible for the care of the horses upon which the entire horse industry is dependent. Without these workers to raise, train, and care for the industry’s horses, many other jobs held by Americans not only in the horse industry, but also supported by the horse industry will be in jeopardy.
Generally speaking, increased enforcement, increased competition for legal workers and greater demand for H-2B and H-2A workers will make it more difficult for horse industry employers to fill many positions.
President Trump’s new executive actions call for a wall along the southern border, increased detention and expedited removal of undocumented immigrants, and will enlist the local law enforcement in these efforts. There are still many questions regarding the magnitude of the impact President Trump’s actions will have. However, it is likely there will be an increase of audits and raids to identify and deport undocumented immigrants. It is also possible many workers will leave the country on their own and fewer will come due to increased enforcement.
Many employers in industries like agriculture and the horse industry who have a large percentage of foreign workers will face increasing pressure to find legal workers and stiff competition for workers that are available. Already, the cap for H-2B visas for the first half of the fiscal year was reached on January 10th. There is a statutory cap on the total number of to H-2B visas issued each year. Currently, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30).
Because the cap has already been reached, for many employers that means no H-2B workers will be available if they are needed in 2017. There is no cap on the H-2A agricultural visa program, but those workers can only be employed by horse breeding farms and cannot be utilized by trainers at race tracks or horse shows.
Simply put these executive orders, and existing problems with the H-2B program will make find workers for many positions in the horse industry much more difficult.
What should members of the horse industry do?
First, horse industry employers should be prepared for increased worksite enforcement and make certain all required paper work is in order. This means that employers should make sure all Form I-9s are complete and accurate.
Second, the most immediate need for the horse industry is H-2B cap relief and restoring the returning worker exemption. If you, your business or members of your organization rely on H-2B workers, please contact your Senators and Representative and let them know that it is vital Congress reinstate the H-2B returning worker exemption.
- Call your Senators and Representative today. If you do not know their direct numbers, you can reach them through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121. Once connected to the office, ask to speak to the person who handles H-2B issues and tell him or her how important the H-2B program is to you. Ask them to work with their party leadership to restore the H-2B returning worker exemption at the earliest opportunity.
- Tell them horse farms, trainers, horseshows, and others in the horse industry are often unable able to find Americans who are willing and able to take jobs as grooms, and stable attendants.
- And despite substantial efforts to recruit American workers the industry has been forced to rely on foreign workers and the H-2B temporary worker program to meet their labor needs.
- The cap for H-2B visas for the first half of the fiscal year was reached on January 10th. For many employers that means no H-2B workers will be available if they are needed in 2017.
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There continues to be many questions regarding the impact of these executive actions and the possibility of more executive actions and immigration legislation. The AHC will continue to monitor this issue. Additionally, The AHC has worked for many years with a broad coalition of users to make both the H-2B and H-2A programs less burdensome and to ensure the programs are available to the horse industry. The AHC will continue this work and look for new opportunities to address the immigrant labor problem facing the industry.