Thirty businesses, including 12 with roots in Austin, are suing U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly , claiming they have been unlawfully denied access to the country’s H-2B work visa program.
The plaintiffs say they have lost significant money and suffered damage to their reputations after the federal government refused to approve their requests for visas, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal district court in Austin.
They have requested a temporary restraining order requiring the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to add the 1,065 job opportunities the plaintiffs had sought for workers.
The H-2B visa program allows foreign workers to take temporary U.S. jobs in non-agriculture industries, such as construction and landscaping.
The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. government denied the plaintiffs’ visa requests because the H-2B program had capped out at the 33,000 seasonal jobs it accepts every six months. However, attorneys for the plaintiff dispute those numbers, claiming in the lawsuit that 3,197 of those positions had not been filled as of March 2.
Even if the cap had been reached, they argue, an authorized cushion would have let them exceed it. Moreover, the lawsuit says the plaintiffs all have dates of need after April 1, at which time there would be 33,000 new visas available.
The lawsuit was filed by Washington-based attorney Wendel Hall and Austin attorney Kevin Lashus and targets Kelly, who took over as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump. Also named in the suit are the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS acting director Lisa Scialaba.
The main plaintiff is Austin-based Euskadia Inc., a construction and landscaping company that says it submitted a petition this year to classify 20 job opportunities as H-2B visa eligible.
Additional Austin businesses joining the complaint are Exterior Maintenance Resources, Landwest Design Group, Weeks Landscape Management, Copper Rock Nursery, Lake Travis Stone & Concrete, Viking Fence, Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems, Alma Collier, LD Tebben, Co., Cooper Roofing & Solar and Benchmark Landscapes.
Other plaintiffs are from San Antonio, Odessa, Leander, Midland, Fort Worth, Channelview, Plano, Denton, Granbury, Dallas, Corpus Christi and College Station.
There are also out-of-state plaintiffs from Louisiana, California and Las Vegas.