A bipartisan group of 12 Michigan lawmakers oppose filing fee increases for H-2A and H-2B applications that would hurt farmers and small businesses.
A proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) calls for raising the cost H-2A petition fees from $460 to $1,090. H-2B filing costs would rise from $460 to $1,080 for named beneficiaries and from $460 to $580 for unnamed beneficiaries.
“While we understand the need for DHS to occasionally review visa fees, we believe such a sharp increase in fees would compound the impact of the increased costs the agriculture economy is facing right now,” the lawmakers wrote to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a letter led by Rep. Bill Huizenga.
“We are concerned this will make running an agricultural operation more difficult, limit job opportunities for Americans, raise prices for consumers, and harm our nation’s food security.”
The proposed filing fees would only add to the skyrocketing costs that are putting strain on Michigan farmers. Labor already accounts for nearly 40% of total production costs on some farms, and Michigan’s minimum wage guestworkers must be paid will rise 12.8% this year to $17.34 per hour.
“Our farmers who rely on the H-2A program for workers have been hit hard this year, beginning with a nearly $2 increase in the wage rate, a new rule from the Department of Labor that we expect to lead to increased cost, and now a proposal for an unwarranted increase in fees,” said John Kran, MFB national legislative counsel. “We're thrilled to see broad, bipartisan support from our lawmakers to address this proposal.”
U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee, Lisa McClain, Elissa Slotkin, Jack Bergman, Rashida Tlaib, John Moolenaar, Hillary Scholten, Tim Walberg, Debbie Dingell, John James, and Haley Stevens co-signed the letter to Mayorkas.
The proposed DHS rule would also create a new $600 fee on various other work visas — including H-2A and H-2B — to fund the government’s asylum program for people seeking shelter in the U.S. The Michigan Farm Bureau asserted in its recent comments to DHS that farmers shouldn’t be forced to pay for a program that's not related to agriculture, and that the costs for any asylum program should be appropriated through Congress and paid out of the Treasury.
“Although the severity and scope of this $600 fee is alarming on its own, the collected funds would go towards unrelated asylum program needs,” the lawmakers wrote, noting the proposed asylum fees for worker petitions would not only impact agriculture, but also affect a wide array of industries from tourism to nonprofits.
“With these considerations in mind, we request DHS reconsider the implementation of these significant fee increases within the rule,” the letter concludes. “We look forward to working with DHS on improving visa services on behalf of the Michigan businesses we represent and protecting our borders.”