Friday, February 03, 2017

Bordallo, Calvo address labor shortage

President Donald Trump's tough immigration stance has led Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo to voice concerns about the further degradation of the H-2B visa program for the island.
In a letter to John Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, Bordallo requested that any immigration-related executive orders spare Guam's labor needs from being negatively affected.
Members of Guam's construction and health care industries have repeatedly said they've been experiencing a shortage of temporary, foreign skilled workers because of the high rate of denials for H-2B visa petitions since December 2015.

"In particular, I am concerned that another order without sufficient clarification could have detrimental impacts on Guam’s workforce, which is already experiencing labor shortages impacting major military construction projects associated with the modernization of U.S. military force posture in the region," Bordallo stated.
"Over the past year, Guam has experienced a drastic reversal in the administration of the H-2B visa program, resulting in less than 10 percent of renewal applications being approved."
Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27 banning most travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming into the United States, leaving uncertainty on how other immigration policies, such as temporary worker programs, will be handled.  
Bordallo, in her letter to Kelly, said she worked diligently with Trump's predecessor to seek regulatory relief to Guam's temporary labor issues, but achieved little progress.
"I was frustrated with the lack of action in the previous administration and hope that new leadership can take a fresh approach to this challenging problem," Bordallo added.
Gov. Eddie Calvo said much of the labor issues Guam is facing today started during the Obama administration, but he's still concerned with the future of the H-1B and H-2B visa programs. He added that the Trump administration should be made aware of these concerns.
However, on Trump's travel ban, the governor said he has little reason to worry.
"We never got any reports from our airport of any type of problems that occurred as a result of folks delayed in movement ... but at the same time, the problems we're having right now are at a critical mass when it comes to the H-2 visas," Calvo said. 
"We don't want to see H-1 included as well, and this is something that we've got to work toward with the Trump administration."
Trump executed the travel ban under the rationale of protecting American citizens from terrorist actions.
Calvo added that the general concerns behind the travel ban fall in line with protecting the people of Guam. Calvo has made it a practice to commute the sentences of non-U.S. citizens and hand them over to federal authorities for deportation. 
"There is an interesting correlation here," Calvo said.
"Guam has had an issue with crime against our citizens by non-citizens ... so I'm hopeful that the decisions made by the Trump administration will assist in building a safer Guam ... whether it's those coming into our island or those non-citizens that have come into our island and committed a crime, that (their cases) are also properly disposed of."

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