The U.S. Apple Association released a March 17, 2020 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing deep concern about the suspension of regular visa processing at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City and other offices across the country. A large proportion of the total guest workers are needed in spring to prepare apple orchards.
Here are excerpts:
“While we were pleased to hear the Administration announce they will be prioritizing interview waiver cases, the State Department’s own data suggests that such workers eligible for waivers may only comprise a portion of workers employers need this season as evidenced by approved petition beneficiaries. Therefore, it is imperative that more be done. We agree that governments and the private sector must take all necessary precautions to reduce further transmission of the virus in our communities, however those steps must be proportional and reasonable.”
“The Food and Agriculture Sector remains critical at this trying time and must be able to continue to provide sustenance. As you know, many sectors within the agriculture industry are highly labour-intensive and especially dependent upon foreign labour, including the H-2A agricultural visa program, and other non-immigrant agricultural worker visas to meet labour needs. Like much of agriculture, the production for many of our crops is set to begin this month.”
“An interruption to the processing of agricultural worker visas will undoubtedly cause a significant disruption to the U.S. food supply. As you know, the Food and Agriculture Sector, responsible for food manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities, accounts for one-fifth of the nation’s economic activity and has been designated a “Critical Infrastructure Sector” by the Department of Homeland Security.
“In order to ensure uninterrupted food, crop and commodity production, we urge you to recognize all H-2A, as well as any other non-immigrant visa petition involving an agricultural worker, visa consular processing functions as “essential” and direct the U.S. Consulates to treat all agricultural worker appointments as emergency visa services.”