Foreign workers brought to the United States on the H-2A and H-2B visa programs, through a fast-tracked process by the State Department, will only undergo additional medical screening if they have symptoms of the Chinese coronavirus, Breitbart News has learned.
As jobless claims for Americans have reached more than ten million in just weeks, the State Department announced waivers for H-2A and H-2B foreign workers. The plan, spearheaded by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, allows American businesses to more quickly bring foreign workers to the U.S.
Between the H-2A visa program, for foreign agricultural workers, and the H-2B visa program, for foreign nonagricultural workers, more than 350,000 additional blue-collar foreign workers are imported to the U.S. labor market annually. Despite this year’s record unemployment, hundreds of thousands of H-2A and H-2B foreign workers are expected to take American jobs.
In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, these H-2A and H-2B foreign workers will continue to only undergo the existing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) screenings, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson told Breitbart News.
The procedure means DHS will not require that each H-2A and H-2B foreign worker be tested for coronavirus before entering the U.S. Instead, those showing symptoms of coronavirus “will be referred to DHS medical contractors, the CDC, or local health authorities for enhanced health screening,” the CBP spokesperson said in a statement.
Already, experts have warned of the potential for coronavirus spread due to the often crowded working and living conditions of H-2A foreign workers. These workers not only often live in cramped living spaces — as their employers are required to provide them housing — but they work closely next to each other on farms, picking crops that eventually end up in supermarkets and grocery stores.
Report: Crammed Working Conditions for H-2A Foreign Workers Pose Public Health Riskhttps://t.co/O8RMGuDa42
— John Binder 👽 (@JxhnBinder) April 4, 2020
“Employers may need to implement ‘social distancing’ measures in fields and packing facilities to minimize the risk of farmworkers infecting one another,” Economic Policy Institute (EPI) researchers suggested in a report. “This will require changes in workplace habits that may be uncomfortable for workers and may reduce productivity if, for example, crews that work conveyor belts in vegetable fields are shrunk to avoid close contact.”
A CBP spokesperson touted to Breitbart News President Trump’s travel bans on China, Iran, and Europe when asked about coronavirus testing for each H-2A and H-2B foreign worker seeking admission to the U.S.
“Regardless of having a valid visa, Presidential Proclamation restricts and suspend the entry of foreign nationals who were physically present within China, Iran, Ireland, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area during the 14-day period immediately preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States,” the CBP spokesperson said.
Existing United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rules make Chinese and Iranian nationals ineligible to receive H-2A and H-2B visas. The overwhelming majority of H-2A and H-2B visas are granted to Mexican nationals and Central Americans — none of which have been issued travel bans despite active coronavirus cases.
Today, Mexico has more than 1,400 active coronavirus cases, while Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have a combined 382 active coronavirus cases. There have been more than 120 deaths in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras due to the coronavirus thus far. The majority of those coronavirus deaths, 94, have been in Mexico.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.