BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Shrimpers in Brownsville, Texas — the nation's fifth-largest shrimping port — say that all too often, they don't have enough workers to man their boats, so their nets stay empty and they lose millions of dollars.
Shrimpers and other employers blame the federal H-2B visa (search) program, which they say doesn't let them hire enough foreign workers to do the jobs. It's currently capped at 66,000 visas — a limit which was reached in March.
"Well, because mostly you can't find workers here to do the work," said Dolby Linwood of the Gulf Shrimp Companies. "It's not something that we need all the time, but specifically, we need them in the season when it's really, really busy, catching a lot of shrimp."
H-2B visas allow foreigners to enter the United States for temporary work and allow dependents to stay with you. But the job must be temporary — one year or less. The employer has to prove that the position is one-time occurrence, seasonal or peak load.
President Bush supports a new temporary worker (search) card program, as long as there's no American willing to do the job. Shrimpers in Brownsville now hope Bush's second term will help out their next season.
The job is by no means is glamorous. And since shrimp swim at nighttime, that's when workers are dropping the nets down; workers toil from sunset to sunrise, then try to catch some sleep during the day. Workers are out at sea at minimum of 40 days at a time and the amount of take-home pay isn't guaranteed, since it's based on what sort of catch a worker gets that day.
Critics of the foreign visas say the program should be thrown overboard — a move that would help force American business, including the landscaping and resort industries, to pay better.
"If it's the case that they can't find Americans at $7 an hour and no benefits, they'd probably find a lot more at t$10 an hour and benefits," said Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Click in the box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Phil Keating.