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Boreal Community Media

Chamber passes resolution in favor of J-1 and H-2B visa program

Sep 08, 2017 08:06AM ● By Editor
From Staff Report - The Cook County News Herald - September 7, 2017

Recent calls by the Trump administration for cuts (or abolishing) the J-1 visa program, including the student-work program have alarmed Cook County employers.

This summer more than 200 international students were employed in Cook County under the J-1 visa program. Another 100 or so foreign workers that hold H-2B visas are also employed in the county, but both programs are threatened.

Without these employees, local businesses wouldn’t have enough labor to meet the demands of peak summer and peak winter tourist seasons.

On September 1 the Cook County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors passed a resolution urging Representative Rick Nolan and U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar “to use all means available to them, including legislation, to protect the J-1 visa program and expand the number of workers allowed to enter the country each year under the H-2B visa program.” 

The resolution also calls for expanding the H-2B program. “Whereas, the need for international workers under the separate H-2B visa program, of which Cook County businesses employed about 100 this summer and would like to employ many more has severely exceeded the 66,000 H-2B visas available annually; and whereas, many Cook County employers had come to depend on returning H-2B summer workers exempt from the visa cap under a provision that Congress failed to re-authorize for 2017, leaving numerous employers scrambling, and frequently failing, to find replacements; and whereas, additional restrictions on the H-2B visa program are being proposed for inclusion in a Department of Homeland Security funding bill to be taken up by Congress.”

H-2B visa holders have been able to work up to three years through extensions while J-1 holders work three or four months. Cuts to either program would undermine the tourist economy which contributes more than 80 percent of the economic activity for Cook County. 

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