The Trump administration is moving to prohibit people from Haiti — which the president allegedly insulted in a meeting last week — from applying for visas for seasonal and farm workers.
Those visas allow businesses to bring in workers from other countries. The H-2A visa is for agriculture and the H-2B is for non-agricultural seasonal work in places such as resorts.
The notice of which countries are eligible was to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, but a copy was publicly posted online Wednesday per the usual process.
In the notice, DHS said that Haitians applying for the visas “present extremely high rates of refusal” and Haitians who have been granted H-2A and H-2B visas “have demonstrated high levels of fraud and abuse and a high rate of overstaying the terms of their H-2 admission.”
DHS referred questions about the decision to Citizenship and Immigration Services, which emailed excerpts of DHS’ notice in response. Requests for information on numbers were referred to the State Department Wednesday evening.
Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Center for Global Development, said the move eliminates the only U.S. work visas that almost everyone in Haiti can apply to get. The number of Haitians who get the visa is in the hundreds.
Other visas require higher skill levels and education. Most Haitians don’t qualify for family sponsored visas and because of the number of Haitians already in the U.S. the diversity visa lottery is not open to them.
Clemens said barring Haitians from the visa will encourage illegal migration to the U.S. and hurt the U.S. economy.
“Haitian farmworkers on the H-2A visa that I have studied in Alabama added $4,000 to the U.S. economy per worker, per month,” said Clemens, who is a labor economist.
The prohibition comes less than a week after senators said President Donald Trump insulted Haiti in a White House meeting and was accused of referring to African nations as “shithole countries.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and two other sources told NBC News this week that Trump asked in the meeting on immigration: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
The DHS secretary designates which countries’ residents are eligible for the visas. The list of eligible countries expires after a year and has to be renewed.
The Trump administration also recently ended temporary protected status for about 60,000 Haitians granted them after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Clemens said barring Haitians is the first concrete step from the administration to close off a legal migration route. “What’s incredibly clear is the administration and its staffers in Haiti have a broad-based policy of massively slashing legal immigration opportunities.”
DHS is designating 82 countries as eligible for the H-2A and 81 eligible for the H-2Bs in 2018.
DHS added Mongolia as eligible for both visa categories. It was previously listed as a country at risk of non-compliance but has been cooperating more with the U.S. government in accepting its citizens when they are deported.
DHS said it stopped taking Belize applications because the country is not complying with U.S. anti-trafficking laws.
And Samoa is now listed as “at risk of non-compliance” because it has not made progress in accepting back nationals ordered removed from the U.S.