Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is asking the federal government to allow enough seasonal work visas to keep the Maryland seafood industry afloat for the coming season.
Governor Hogan sent a letter to the U.S. Departments of Labor and Homeland Security and to increase the number of H-B2 Nonimmigrant Temporary Program visas, currently capped at 66,000, to the “maximum allowable under federal law.” The governor says that the Eastern Shore’s 20 licensed crab-picking houses need about 500 H-B2 seasonal workers. Without those workers, businesses may have to cease or limit operations.
The governor says restricting visas hurts Maryland’s “iconic family and small businesses.” He goes so far as to invite Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to visit a local crab house or processor.
Last year, Governor Hogan made a similar request, and Homeland Security released 30,000 more visas just in time for the April 1 crab harvest season. Now, the governor says it’s time for Congress and Maryland’s Congressional delegation to find a solution to the visa cap.
The letter comes two weeks after representatives of the seafood industry asked the Dorchester County Council to send a letter of their own supporting the release of additional visas.
–Meg Walburn Viviano