Sen. Thom Tillis has stopped blocking consideration of President Donald Trump's nominee for a key job on immigration issues after the Trump administration agreed to let more seasonal workers into the country.
Tillis and other senators have pushed for more liberal use of the H-2B visa program, which allows foreign citizens to come to the United States to take temporary, usually blue-collar jobs in non-agricultural fields like landscaping, construction, tourism and seafood processing. Several employers in Western North Carolina use workers who come here through the program.
The allotment for the current federal fiscal year of 66,000 such visas was exhausted a few months ago. After action by Congress to let the administration admit more workers, the Department of Homeland Security on Monday said it would issue 15,000 more visas.
Tillis had put a hold on the nomination of Lee Francis Cissna to be director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as a way of pressuring Homeland Security to act on the issue.
In a statement Monday, he called the additional visas "relief to seasonal small businesses across the nation currently suffering from a lack of temporary workers."
"As President Trump has noted, the H-2B program is vital for businesses that desperately need temporary help to keep their doors open and keep their American workforce employed," he said.
A Tillis spokesman said Tillis was lifting the hold on Cissna's nomination, thus allowing the Senate to act on it.
The Trump administration has had trouble getting officials confirmed in key jobs, but that is primarily due to procedural moves by Democratic senators to delay votes on nominees and slowness on the part of the administration to submit names. Tillis' hold was unusual because it was by a Republican senator.
Along with other senators, Tillis has also introduced legislation to streamline the H-2B program and keep workers who have previously come to the U.S. through the program from counting against the cap on the number of visas issued. That would increase the number of workers available through the H-2B program.
There has been debate about these moves. Advocates of strict limits on immigration say the program reduces incentives for employers to hire American workers. Business interests say they often cannot find enough U.S. citizens for seasonal jobs and need foreign workers.
Tillis has said he is charting a bipartisan, middle path on immigration issues. For instance, his staff headlined a recent press release regarding Tillis comments on a border wall this way: "Tillis: We Need To Tune Out Far Left and Far Right on Border Security."
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