The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hoping a federal judge will block the Labor Department's proposed changes in the way foreign unskilled guest workers are recruited under the H-2B visa program. Those changes take effect April 27.
The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla., contends that the Labor Department overstepped its jurisdiction by implementing wage guarantees and requiring travel reimbursements that companies must provide immigrant workers they plan to hire for low-skilled jobs. If these rules go into effect, companies hiring immigrant workers under this program, in many cases small businesses, would have to swallow higher operational costs, according to the lawsuit. The Chamber says that polices like these should be made by Department of Homeland Security.
"The Chamber hopes to see a judicial injunction while the court decides if changing the H-2B visa requirements is beyond DOL's authority," said Amy Nice, executive director for the chamber's immigration policy, in an email Friday.
The H-2B visa lets foreign nationals work in the U.S. for nine months, renewable up to three years, in low-skill non-farm jobs like hotel housekeeping, seafood processing, landscaping, forestry, welding and pipefitting.
The suit's plaintiffs are five landscaping and forestry businesses from Florida, Virginia and Arkansas. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Assistant Secretary for Labor, Employment and Training Jane Oates are defendants.
"At issue in this case is whether an agency -- the Department of Labor ("DOL") -- can change a successful statutory-based program through rulemaking, when the agency acknowledges that it lacks express rulemaking authority and acknowledges that Congress has vested rulemaking authority in another agency," says the lawsuit.
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