Ohio landscapers worried immigration changes will hurt their bottom line

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A change in immigration policy in Washington has hit home for some Central Ohio business owners. (WSYX/WTTE)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) - A change in immigration policy in Washington has hit home for some Central Ohio business owners.

Andy Meyer said for 12 years he has relied on the H-2B program to fill seasonal jobs.

"We continue to re-advertise," said Meyer, who owns Yard Barbers. "We haven't gotten one hire yet and we need these guys very, very badly."

It's a program that allows workers from other countries to come in and take on temporary jobs, ones Meyer said Americans won't take.

Thirty-three thousand workers are allowed into the country during the first half of the year and 33,000 others during the second half.

In the past, returning workers wouldn't be counted toward that 66,000 total but in 2016 Congress let that expire.

"That is not enough for the people to come over here that is needed in the workforce," said Meyer, "whether it is myself, whether it is an amusement park."

Economist Bill LaFayette studies Central Ohio's economy.

He said the numbers tell him that in a city rapidly growing like Columbus, there's a need for workers, regardless of where they come from.

"My 2018 economic forecast is calling for additional growth in construction in particular," said LaFayette, "and so, I am beginning to get concerned that growth in that and other industries is going to get stunted by the lack of a good flow of workforce."

Not everyone is in favor of the H-2B program.

The AFL-CIO directed ABC6/FOX28 to a letter from 2017 that said: "... Visa programs allow employers to stifle wages, create a captive workforce, discriminate in hiring, and quash workplace organizing."

Meyer is hopeful to get some H-2B workers, but he worries this could raise prices for a lot of businesses and cut into his own.

"Anyone calls us and they ask for service," he said, "we just tell them we can't take on new clients now due to the fact that we can't get the employees."

Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown's office said he's listening to concerns and working on a broader fix for immigration.

ABC6/FOX28 is waiting to hear back from Republican Sen. Rob Portman's office.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said it received 2,700 requests for about 47,000 workers in February. Since that request number is over the limit, it used a lottery system.