Governor Larry Hogan this week praised the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release an additional 30,000 visas through the H-2B Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker Program. H-2B workers are essential for Maryland’s seasonal blue crab industry and sweet corn processors.
The additional visas come after repeated requests by federal and state officials to help Maryland’s crab and seafood processing industry. The additional visas are a big boost for the Maryland crab industry, which lost about 40 percent of its H-2B workers in 2018.
According to a press release:
“I am pleased that the federal government has heeded our calls to raise the cap on the H-2B visa program, allowing our iconic processing houses on the Eastern Shore to open for business this year,” said Governor Hogan. “This is good news for this year, but we still need a long-term solution to this problem. I am calling on Congress to do the right thing and take action to ensure our crab houses have the workers they need to be successful.”
On March 14, Governor Hogan called on federal administration officials to reverse the 2018 decision to limit the number of visas available through the H-2B program and released a short film, The Watermen of Hoopers Island, which highlighted the threat that arbitrary federal visa policy changes posed to the crabbing industry. On Friday, Governor Hogan discussed the issue during a meeting with Maryland’s congressional delegation.
“A second year of hardship could permanently damage Maryland’s seafood industry, causing these iconic family businesses to close and having a devastating impact on jobs in our state,” said the governor in March. “The loss of these jobs and processors will threaten the livelihoods of commercial crabbers and watermen, and jeopardize our $355 million seafood industry.”
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, who has met directly with local crab house owners to discuss the impact of their ongoing labor shortage and relayed those concerns in both letters and phone calls to DHS Secretary Nielson, praised the decision.
“Maryland crabs are central to our state’s economy – from watermen who harvest them from the Bay, to the crab houses who process them, to restaurants and stores across the state who sell our iconic blue crab. Lack of access to H-2B visas has had terrible consequences on our seafood industry, which I’ve repeatedly stressed to the Administration. These additional visas will bring welcome relief and ensure that crab houses have a reliable workforce. I will continue working with all stakeholders to put in place a long-term solution and protect Maryland’s economy,” said Senator Van Hollen.
Read the full press release for more information.