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Contractors should apply for H-2Bs, Guam governor says

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The governor is urging island contractors to take advantage of the exemptions offered to Guam in the National Defense Authorization Act and apply for the skilled foreign labor they need under the H-2B program, even if their projects are not directly related to the military buildup.

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The Tsubaki Tower hotel project on Guam is seen on Dec. 6, 2018.  Photo by Dontana Keraskes/The Guam Daily Post

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero spoke at the Guam Contractors Association general membership meeting Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Guam.

“I don’t have to tell all of you that we have already experienced the impact of the loss of skilled foreign workers on our island,” Leon Guerrero said. “You are living with that impact.”

She noted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s recent ban on H-2B workers from the Philippines compounded the already tough restrictions imposed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which left Guam with “zero H-2B workers on island in May 2018.”

However, the governor pointed out that the 2019 NDAA “eliminated the cap of 4,000 H-2B workers” for Guam and the “exemption is not restricted to military contracts,” she said.

“All projects in Guam are integral to the military,” the governor said.

She encouraged contractors to file for projects not necessarily related to the military, such as multifamily and single-family home construction and business establishments.

“Projects like the Tsubaki Tower show that private developments can be approved under the NDAA exemption,” said Leon Guerrero.

The Tsubaki Tower hotel project became the first Guam private sector project to get approval for H-2B workers after the military certified it as necessary to accommodate the need for more hotel rooms for the military buildup.

“I encourage employers to take a chance on those projects,” said the governor. “We are cautiously optimistic that those applications, if filed correctly, may get approved. Until someone tries, we will never know.”

The governor said the Guam Department of Labor “can help with ideas on how to meet the threshold” to qualify for the exemption.