Landscape Professionals Advocate for H-2B at NALP Fly-In - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscape Professionals Advocate for H-2B at NALP Fly-In

Photo: NALP

On June 13 and 14, nearly 130 landscape professionals from at least 25 states gathered at the nation’s capital to meet with their representatives to lobby for the permanent worker exclusion for the H-2B program.

“I think if landscape professionals want to change policy and impact policy, they have to be able to show up and participate in the process,” says Andrew Bray, senior vice president of government relations & membership for NALP. “They are way better conveyors of the message than me and our government relations team because we’re not their constituents. While we do our best to represent our constituents, we can’t tell the personal stories, and then how this really impacts their business and their customers, who are also the elected officials’ constituents.”

Photo: NALP

There was heavy representation from Texas, Florida and other states in the Southeast. Bray says he appreciates the efforts from state associations to bring delegations from Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and Ohio as well.

Last month, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the Department of Homeland Security passed its FY 24 funding bill out of the subcommittee. What was notable was DHS Subcommittee Chairman Joyce (R-OH) and Ranking Member Cuellar (D-TX) inserted language in the base text that would provide for a permanent returning worker exemption with a three-year look back.

There has not been a cap relief provision in the base text of the House Appropriations bill in over a decade. Even though the permanent worker provision is in the base language of the bill, Bray says that it is still something the industry has to fight for.

The full Committee mark-up was scheduled for May 24 but was canceled due to debt ceiling negotiations. These extra weeks have been spent seeking Judiciary Chairman Jordan (R-OH) approval of the permanent returning worker exemption. Jordan has a track record of opposing the H-2B program, so the H-2B Workforce Coalition and our Appropriations Committee Champions have been working every angle to apply pressure for Jordan to sign off on the measure.

During the fly-in, NALP advocates encouraged members of the House to sign a dear colleague letter that will be sent to Appropriators supporting the returning worker exemption. Bray says additionally, attendees worked to raise awareness on why permanent cap relief is needed.

Photo: NALP

“We have some talking points and leave-behinds with information about the program with some updated statistics,” Bray says. “Our members also shared their stories about how the H-2B program has helped their business and their customers.”  

Getting this exemption past the appropriations committee is a pivotal part of the process, but just the beginning. Bray says it’ll be easier to hold on to the returning worker exemption annually once legislators can get it passed.

The returning worker exemption was last included in 2016 and since then, the H-2B program has only given the current administration the authority to release additional visas at their discretion.

Because the markup for DHS appropriations is expected to occur the week of June 19, this fly-in was the perfect time for landscape professionals to speak to legislators and share their stories.

“Our members do such a great job telling their story and I’m always impressed being in meetings when our members start talking about the H-2B program I can turn into a fly on the wall because they do such a good job,” Bray says.   

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.