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The Weekly Round-Up: Temporary Protected Status Extended for Somalis and Landscaping Companies Hit Hard by Visa Rules

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TPS Extended for Somalis in the United States

After a period of uncertainty, the Trump Administration extended Temporary Protected Status, or “TPS,” to certain Somalis living in the United States.  The extension granted them the right to live in the United States until at least March of 2020, at which point the U.S. will make a new determination about whether to extend continued immigration relief.  Had this extension not been granted, several hundred Somalis would have been forced to seek another type of immigration benefit or leave the United States.

The TPS program is designed to protect citizens of certain countries from returning to a situation that is dangerous or unstable.  Somalia has been designated as a TPS country since 1991 as a result of widespread violence in the country, lack of a functioning government, constant attacks from the terrorist group “al-Shabaab,” and other internal problems.  In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security wrote that “[f]ollowing careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the conditions supporting Somalia’s designation for TPS continue to exist.”  Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota – a state with the largest Somali community in the U.S. – stated on Twitter that he was “grateful and relieved” for the extension.

Human rights groups also praised the decision, but stated that more must be done.  Oxfam America humanitarian policy official Scott Paul stated that “Oxfam is calling on Congress to pass legislation granting Somali TPS holders permanent residency status and a path to citizenship so that they can continue to safely live and work in the U.S. without fear of return to the devastating conditions in Somalia.”

If you are from Somalia and have questions about how this decision might affect you, please reach out to an experienced immigration attorney.

Landscaping Companies Hard-Hit by Seasonal Visa Rules

Landscaping companies say that the current provisions of the H-2B visa program, which allows for foreign nationals to come to the United States to perform seasonal work, are inadequate to meet on-the-ground labor demands.

Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allots 66,000 visas for H-2B program – 33,000 in the first half of the fiscal year and 33,000 in the second half.  However, for the second half of fiscal year 2018, DHS received over 81,000 applications – about two and a half times the designated number of visas for that period.  This forced DHS to conduct a lottery, in which the recipients were chosen by random.  The rest were rejected.

Businesses, large and small, are frustrated by this uncertainty in the availability of workers.  As reported in Time, a Connecticut landscaping company, YardApes, was denied their request for 15 employees under the H-2B program.  As a result, the company lost one of its largest contracts, existing employees are working longer hours, and customer complaints have risen – they cannot meet client demand with their existing workforce.  A landscaping company in Texas was granted only 120 of its 175 requested visas, forcing it to relinquish $450,000 in business this year alone, and over $2 million in recent years.

As further reported in Time, National Association of Landscape Professionals representative Laurie Flanagan stated that companies “need permanent H-2B cap relief so that employers can actually plan,” adding that “[w]hen I went to business school, businesses talked about doing five-year plans. Here, you can’t even plan your current year because you don’t even know if you can get your workers because of this cap.”  This week, representatives from landscaping companies in Illinois sat down with Democratic Senator Richard Durbin to advocate for improvements to the H-2B Program, as well as discuss other employment-based immigration issues; however, it is unclear whether Congress will make any changes to the program.

If you are an employer or employee and would like more information about the H-2B Program, please consult an experienced immigration attorney.

If you have questions about topics covered in today’s weekly round-up or other immigration matters, contact me at wcmenard@nmmlaw.com.