More H2B visas hopefully on the way

The American Horse Council in an industry memo June 23 said the United States Department of Homeland Security expects to begin issuing another round of H2B visas in late July.

Additional H2B visas, which are critical to the horseracing industry in regard to finding backstretch workers, were included in a congressional budget bill that became law in the spring. Issuance of additional visas, however, is up to the discretion of the DHS.

Published reports have indicated the department plans to issue more visas, though it declined to say when and how many. The cap of 66,000 was met within the first 30 days of 2017, which created a hardship for horse racing and various agricultural industries that rely on seasonal help.

“The extra visas will be available to employers that show they’d be significantly harmed if they aren’t able to temporarily hire foreign workers,” the AHC said. “DHS hasn’t decided how many visas will be offered but that number should be set soon.”

Trainers in multiple states have reported difficulty in finding enough grooms to care for their horses at racetracks.

“This crisis impacts not just racing,” said Alan Foreman, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “Racing is a small part of a much larger service industry in the United States. We are working on this issue at the very highest levels in Washington, D.C. It’s a political issue, not a legal issue.”

Foreman said the THA is working with state racing regulators to encourage them to work with the racing industry during the transitional period for U.S. immigration policy. He said the THA also is preparing an educational document that will offer guidance for trainers who employ immigrant workers.

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