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[Pacific Daily News] Guam Visa Crackdown Limits Workers, Could Affect Buildup

Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

gdumat-ol@guampdn.com

11:57 p.m. ChST March 13, 2016

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Guam’s Department of Labor has confirmed what some of the island’s immigration attorneys have said recently: There’s been an unusually higher rate of denials for H-2B foreign worker petitions.

The problem has come up as Guam’s construction industry faces a challenge meeting labor needs for the military buildup and additional major private-sector projects.

A $180 million hotel project in Tumon Bay recently started, and a project that size is expected to need a few hundred construction workers.

At least two other hotel construction projects and condominium tower project proposals are at various stages of the local government’s approval process.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo has recently voiced concern about the H-2B foreign worker visa denials because of a potential shortage of skilled workers for the upcoming construction projects for a Marine Corps base in Guam.

Gov. Eddie Calvo, the local labor department and Bordallo are working together on how to resolve the challenge, the local labor department stated.

The U.S. and Japan governments are jointly picking up an $8 billion tab for the relocation of about 5,000 Marines, plus their dependents, from Okinawa to Guam.

“In consultation with employers, immigration attorneys and other stakeholders, (Guam’s Labor Department) found that there appears to be an unusual increase of denials and seemingly intended denials of H-2B petitions,” the local labor department recently stated, in part.

After further inquiries, the local labor department stated, “this trend towards denials appear to be occurring nationwide.”

Nurses denied

The problem also has affected Guam’s only private hospital.

The Guam Regional Medical City opened just last year, and its petitions to renew foreign nurses’ work visas have been denied, Bordallo has stated previously.

H-2B visas are for foreign workers to fill jobs that are temporary in nature, typically lasting from one to three years in duration, according to Greg Massey, administrator of the local Labor Department’s Alien Labor Processing and Certification Division.

In some cases, employers’ H-2B visa petitions were denied because they’re hiring for jobs they can’t justify as temporary, according to the local labor department.

In the past, foreign worker hiring for those same jobs weren’t questioned, the labor department stated.

In one instance, a company that already signed up for a construction contract was denied an opportunity to hire 100 H-2B workers, Pacific Daily News files show.

Bordallo wrote on Feb. 26 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez on the issue.

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