Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 23 Jun 2018 12am

Headlines:

     

     

     

     

     

    Friday, June 22, 2018-9:23:59A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Font Size

Settings

On Guam, first arrival of new foreign workers on H-2B visas in more than two years

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — A group of skilled foreign laborers arrived on island this morning from the Philippines. They are the first new, major batch of H-2B workers approved for entry to Guam since early 2016, more than two years ago.

At the start of the week there were no H-2B laborers on island. The last one left island in April, according to Greg Massey, the director of the Guam Department of Labor’s Alien Labor Processing Division.

“We had zero workers,” said Massey.

The 45 who arrived Wednesday morning are the first batch of 321 applications approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for the PHC Corp., a subcontractor for Core Tech International. The Guam Daily Post is affiliated with Core Tech.

“It means that construction projects that have been delayed will be able to move forward,” said Gov. Eddie Calvo in a statement, adding “this is the first of several groups to arrive on Guam, which in turn will move our economy forward.”

The H-2B visa applications for these laborers were approved under the exemption granted in the National Defense Authorization Act for workers who are needed for projects related to the military buildup.

It took the inclusion of legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 for USCIS to reverse its nearly two-year record of rejecting virtually all petitions for foreign laborers.  Language in the NDAA has allowed Guam employers to hire up to 4,000 H-2B workers a year for projects related to the military buildup.

There were as many as 1,500 foreign skilled workers on Guam in 2015 when USCIS started denying requests for new H-2B visas.

Massey said there is still some “vetting” that needs to be done. They will have to be registered, and H-2B ID cards must  be issued to them. Once that’s done they can start working.

Over the next few months, Massey said he expects a weekly arrival of between 30 and 50 H-2B workers.

To date, USCIS has approved a total of 654 H-2B visa applications, all for military related construction contracts.

No visa applications have been approved for any non-military related projects, yet, said Massey.

However, Massey says 555 applications from Ace Construction are pending. In addition, Tropical Dive Station has applied for an H-2B visa for a foreign language dive instructor, and Guam Radiology has also applied for H-2B visas for some technicians the clinic needs.

Ace, Guam Radiology and Tropical Dive Station are all plaintiffs in the still ongoing lawsuit filed in October 2016 by 11 Guam businesses and the Guam Contractors Association which has challenged the USCIS’ denials of petitions for H-2B workers.

On April 2, 2018, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood  of the District Court of Guam granted class-action status to the lawsuit. That followed the preliminary injunction she issued on Jan. 23, 2018. 

The injunction requires USCIS to reverse its previous denials of H-2B worker petitions, and to stop the blanket denial of future petitions, at least temporarily, until the merits of the case have been decided.