U.S., Guatemala, H-2A program addresses ‘irregular migration’

( File photo )

(UPDATED July 24) The U.S. and Guatemala are pursuing a program to boost H-2A workers from that country, in an effort to stem what the Department of Homeland Security calls irregular migration patterns.

A registered Foreign Labor Recruiter program would prioritize H-2A visa appointments over non-immigrant categories for Guatemalans, according to a DHS news release. It would also develop and coordinate an “outreach campaign to promote the H-2A program in partnership with Guatemala’s Ministry of Labor, focusing on the recruitment of qualified workers.”

The program focuses on H-2A recruiters in Guatemala, promoting transparency and accountability, and increasing protection for workers seeking legal employment in the U.S.

The program is one of several designed to stem the flow of undocumented workers from Guatemala, according to the DHS. The programs seek to “expand the capacity of migrant reception.”

“By working cooperatively and with international organizations, both governments will continue to harmonize immigration regulations, synchronize regional immigration systems to ensure migrants and children are not victimized by smugglers, and enhance protection systems and capacity through partnership,” according to the release.

The U.S. and Guatemala have a common cause to confront the flow of undocumented workers, according to the release.

“By strengthening the relationship between the two countries through such agreements, the U.S. and Guatemala, as partners, will better protect the most vulnerable populations of Guatemala while confronting irregular migration,” according to the release.

The DHS issued the release about the “important progress” with Guatemala on July 22. The following day, President Donald Trump threatened, through tweets, to impose a ban on Guatemalan immigrants, tariffs on imports from the country, or other punitive measures.

The tweets came after Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales canceled a meeting with Trump on a program that would have required Central American migrants to claim asylum in Guatemala, and not Mexico or the U.S.

H-2A, by the numbers

For the first two quarters of Fiscal Year 2019, about 8,500 H-2A applications have been received by the Department of Labor, a 14% increase over the same time last year.

The states with the most H-2A workers as of March 31 (and what percentage of the overall U.S. number that represents), according to the department, are:

  • Florida: 19,156 (15.5%);
  • Georgia: 16,268 (13.1%);
  • California: 12,330 (10%);
  • Washington: 10,366 (8.4%); and
  • North Carolina: 9,155 (7.4%).


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