July 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced it would allow 15,000 more foreign workers to obtain temporary non-immigrant visas due to a shortage of qualified laborers in the United States.
DHS Secretary John Kelly filed the required paperwork with the Federal Register to increase the number of H-2B visas for fiscal year 2017 after meeting with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who said there weren't enough U.S. workers to satisfy the needs of businesses across the country. Petitioners seeking to hire more visa workers must prove their businesses would sustain "irreparable harm" if they're unable to bring in the foreign workers.
"Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses at risk of significant harm due to a lack of available seasonal workers," Kelly said. "As a demonstration of the administration's commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap."
H-2B visas allow non-agricultural workers to gain temporary employment in the United States if businesses are unable to find qualified U.S. workers. Foreign workers with H-2B visas are qualified for positions in hospitality, maintenance, retail, warehouses, theme parks, landscaping and security.
Congress set the maximum number of H-2B visas to be issued at 66,000 for the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Half of the visas are available during the first half of the year and the remaining available in the second half. The cap was met on March 13 this year.
This isn't the first time the federal government has issued additional H-2B visas after the annual cap was reached. In 2016, there were an extra 13,382 visas granted for seasonal work.
During a call with reporters, a senior DHS official said the additional visas "absolutely" fits in with Trump's campaign promise to put America first.
"We're talking about American businesses that are at risk of suffering irreparable harm if they don't get additional H-2B workers," the official said. "This does help with American businesses continuing to prosper."
But not everyone agrees, including Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which lobbies to keep immigration levels low in the United States.
"This is yet another example of the administration and congress failing to keep the Trump campaign promise of putting American workers first," he told The Washington Post.
Trump has previously opposed allowing guest workers in the United States, though his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., has used H-2B seasonal employees.