MIL-OSI USA: VIDEO: In Homeland Security Appropriations Markup, Pingree Leads Push for Increased H-2B Visas

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (1st District of Maine)

Senior House Appropriator Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today led a bipartisan amendment to the Fiscal Year 2025 Homeland Security Appropriations bill to increase the cap on seasonal labor visas, or H-2B visas. The amendment, co-led by Pingree alongside Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), comes as Maine enters its busy tourism season and continues to face a worker shortage. Pingree has long supported increased H-2B visas to help small businesses fill seasonal job openings.

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“We want to make sure there’s enough workers for all of our hospitality industry,” Pingree said in remarks to the House Appropriations Committee. “What happens to so many of our businesses is they don’t have enough workers. […] There just aren’t enough. So, without the H-2B workers, many of our hotels can’t keep open through the whole season or the restaurant can’t stay open every night. It really hurts the people who own the businesses and it hurts the other employees.”

Pingree also spoke in support of Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro’s (D-N.Y.) amendment to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Shelter and Services Program (SSP), which is crucial in helping municipalities and nonprofit groups access resources needed to house asylum seekers. As it stands, House Republicans’ bill does not include any funding for the SSP, $650 million below the FY2024 enacted level. The amendment would transfer $600 million from border wall funding under U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to FEMA for the SSP. 

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“Some of you may not have been to Maine, but it is the whitest state in the nation. It’s the oldest state in the nation. And we’ve had a tremendous worker shortage. And I challenge any of you to have a meeting with your Chamber of Commerce and not have people say to you, ‘My biggest issue is getting enough workers to come to work for the jobs that we have available.’ For the party of a ‘vigorous economy’, for those of you who want to make sure that we have healthy, thriving businesses, it’s hard for me to understand why you’re so opposed to having new people welcomed into our country,” said Pingree. 

Click here to watch the full markup.

A summary of the FY2025 Homeland Security Appropriations bill is available here.

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I just want to thank those people who have already brought up Maine because this is an issue I work on every single year. And I appreciate Dr. Harris for continuing to support this issue. And just want to remind people the idea of having a little more predictability means a tremendous amount to the businesses that I represent.

I hope all of you are planning your summer vacation in Maine in August. And we want to make sure there’s enough workers for all of our hospitality industry. And this was brought up earlier, but what happens to so many of our businesses is they don’t have enough workers. There aren’t enough kids off on summer vacation or all the myths that sort of people think and how we fill these jobs. There just aren’t enough.

So, without the H-2B workers, many of our hotels can’t keep open through the whole season or the restaurant can’t stay open every night. It really hurts the people who own the businesses and it hurts the other employees. So, this is really important and I appreciate all the support for this and I urge everyone support it, I yield back.

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We’ve already had a lot of conversation about this, and it isn’t necessarily helping our time crunch issue. But I just have to say a couple of quick things. I appreciate very much the ranking member submitting this amendment. And this funding is particularly important to one of the cities that I represent. The city of Portland, Maine.

You know, we all talk about big cities like New York, and we all have all kinds of concerns about this. But let’s be clear. In my state, this funding is critically important to supporting our city, which has been very welcoming to asylum seekers. And they didn’t just come since Joe Biden became the president. They were coming across the border, getting into busses in the previous administration and our state … I’m very proud of our state… we’ve been very welcoming. Some of you may not have been to Maine, but it is the whitest state in the nation. It’s the oldest state in the nation. And we’ve had a tremendous worker shortage. 

And I challenge any of you to have a meeting with your Chamber of Commerce and not have people say to you, my biggest issue is getting enough workers to come to work for the jobs that we have available. For the party of a vigorous economy, for those of you who want to make sure that we have healthy, thriving businesses, it’s hard for me to understand why you’re so opposed to having new people welcomed into our country. These are not illegal people. They are in our state legally seeking asylum. Yes, they have to apply for asylum and then they have to wait for six months to get a work permit.

So, in the interim time, our cities have to support people because they can’t go to work. And believe me, they desperately want to go to work. Under Donald Trump, this was a yearlong delay. We’ve gotten it down to six months. I’ve got a bill that will put it down to 30 days. So, if you want to sign out of that bill, we can move this even faster and have less need for this funding.

But the fact is, as I said in my state, we’re very welcoming. We’re happy to have more people come, but we have to wait. We have to pay for housing and support people until they can go and get a job and pay for their own housing and pay for their own life expenses, which they desperately want to do.

So, this is incredibly important funding. It moves people from the congestion at the border to cities all over our country, and it is a way to support that going on. So as far as I’m concerned, this is just a commonsense way to deal with the number of asylum seekers who want to come into our country today. And we should continue to support it

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