Legislative Landscape is a bi-monthly column by Andrew Bray, vice president, government relations, for the National Association of Landscape Professionals

On June 22, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to further limit the entry of immigrants into the United States. The executive order extends the April 22 order, which suspended entry of immigrants into the U.S., and expands the scope of the order to also suspend temporary guest worker programs until the end of 2020. Guest worker programs that will be suspended are H-1B, H-2B, J-1 and L visas.

The order had been anticipated for the past several weeks, but the exact details and scope of the order were being debated inside the White House for an extended period of time. NALP and the H-2B Coalition were heavily engaged with a strong group of Congressional H-2B supporters and Senior White House Officials that both understand the important role that guest worker programs will play in an economic recovery. Unfortunately, those in the Administration that fundamentally oppose guest worker programs won the debate and used the COVID-19 pandemic to further an anti-immigration agenda to appease a political faction of the President’s base leading into the 2020 election.

NALP released a statement against the order explaining:

“As the Nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, H-2B workers will play an integral role in our economic recovery. H-2B workers support the hiring, promoting and retaining of American workers and the expansion of the companies that use this valuable seasonal guest worker program. It’s unfortunate that President Trump has minimized the landscape industry’s specific labor needs in a way that will hurt landscape companies throughout the Nation.

“We would hope that the President promptly reconsiders the executive order and amend the order to lessen the impacts on the landscape industry and the essential services we provide to the Nation as we look toward assisting in protecting people, their property and the environment while bolstering a robust economic recovery in 2021.”

President Donald Trump’s order effectively suspends temporary guest worker programs, including H-2B, until Dec. 31, 2020.

Here are some key components of the executive order:

  • The order becomes effective on June 24, 2020
  • The order will be in effect until Dec. 31, 2020
  • The Administration will be required to review the order every 60 days, the President has the ability to rescind an executive order at any time
  • The order does not impact those H-2B workers already in the U.S. for the 2020 Season
  • The order provides exemptions for H-2B workers involved in the food supply and authorizes to make other exemptions for H-2B if there is a “national interest”
  • The order bars the “admission” and “entry” of H-2B visas but it remains unclear if processing and other parts of the admission process can continue
  • DHS and DOL will be promulgating rules in July providing further information on the order

While disheartening, the fight for the H-2B program for 2021 is certainly not over. NALP is working with congressional offices to insert legislation in FY 2021 Appropriations that will force the Administration to release H-2B visas for 2021. The House will consider this legislation in the DHS Appropriations bill that was scheduled to be considered in July.

Additionally, NALP will continue outreach with the Administration as they have the authority to rescind the order at any time and are committed to reviewing the order every 60 days. Lastly, NALP is exploring all possible legal remedies with other concerned business groups that are adversely impacted by this executive order.

Editor’s note: This article was written on July 10, 2020. You can contact Bray at andrew@landscapeprofessionals.org for the most current information.