The island’s construction industry was hit with labor problems in 2016 as the federal government denied almost 100 percent of H-2B foreign worker visas. Hundreds of foreign workers were sent home.
A dozen Guam businesses filed a federal lawsuit in October, alleging the high rejection rate constitutes an unlawful change in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service policy.
Court documents state federal immigration officials started rejecting applications after determining Guam businesses haven't been using those workers temporarily, as intended by the program, with many businesses relying on large numbers of foreign workers for years at a time.
In a June letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Eddie Calvo wrote: “With the severe lack of skilled workers, as a result of being an isolated island economy, Guam needs additional temporary workers to keep up with the pace that will far exceed organic growth.”
Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo tried to get a provision included in the defense spending bill that allocated $170 million for military construction projects on Guam, but she said immigration-related legislation doesn’t have support from Republican leaders in Congress.
Guam’s construction industry lobbied for more flexibility in hiring skilled foreign workers, such as masons, electricians and plumbers, in light of the anticipated increase in military projects related to the proposed Marine Corps base construction.