Over 10 days following its initial announcement that a hardware failure halted the processing of over 3000 H-2A visas nationwide, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to work on a fix to the biometric data transmission system used to process security checks. There has been no official word from the U.S. State Department or from DHS about when the problem will be fixed.
At the urging of Western Growers and various other ag groups, yesterday, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to address the matter as soon as possible and to allow for the prioritization of H-2A visas over non-emergency applications once the matter is resolved.
Meanwhile, in California alone, 600 applications are pending approval. Over 400 of those workers remain in hotels in Tijuana, Mexico, awaiting approval of their visas. The snag has cost California produce farmers between $500,000 to $1 million per day in lost revenue, leaving berries and other crops rotting in the fields.
At issue is not only lost revenue and inconvenience, but as employers, growers are also concerned about the safety of their workers who may be targeted by smugglers and cartel members during the delay. The issue also highlights the obvious need for immigration reform.
Western Growers will continue to stay engaged on this issue and will provide updates once they are available. CLICK HERE to read our previous Spotlight piece on this issue and to view a front page Wall Street Journal piece quoting Western Growers.