While the election campaign and early days of US President Donald Trump have been filled with plenty of ‘America first’ rhetoric, a vineyard owned by his son has applied for 29 foreign workers through the H-2A Visa program.
The H2-A visa program enables agricultural employers to bring in temporary or seasonal services when a shortage of domestic workers is expected. Trump Vineyard Estates, otherwise known as Trump Winery is located in the state of Virginia and is owned by his second son, Eric. The winery applied for six foreign workers in December before applying for an additional 23 two months later.
Libby Whitley, an attorney who has worked with employers including Trump Winery on labor services, said in a Daily Progress story that she expected the company would be flooded with American applicants after all the media coverage.
“Guess how many applicants we had?…13,” she said. And they were all from places like the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya, and Nigeria. We did not have one American worker apply on [the first job order].”
The employer must file an application with the Department of Labour stating that there are not sufficient workers in the U.S. who are able, willing, qualified and available to do the work. They must have initially attempted to find American citizens to fill these jobs.
Trump Winery is not the only vineyard in the area to have utilized the H-2A program to fill seasonal positions. Multiple other local wineries have applied for foreign workers this year while others have utilised the program in the past.
“It’s difficult to find people. People these days say there are no workers that will perform seasonal work like agriculture jobs, landscaping, entry level, low skill… I think that’s an overstatement. I don’t think there are no people do to it, there’s just a deficiency of people to do it.”
During a November 21st video message, then President-elect Trump said he would direct the Department of Labour to, “investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker”. His administration and congressional members from both parties have criticized the H-1B visa program that brings in highly-skilled foreign workers for tech, financial and other high-paying jobs.
In January, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said reform of visa programs like H1-Bs would be part a larger immigration reform effort through executive order and through working with Congress. While no executive orders have been passed, a bill titled H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 was introduced in the House of Representatives in early March.