By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACAÑANG ON Tuesday said it is open to appealing the US government’s imposing a one-year ban on hiring workers from the Philippines.
Citing “severe” cases of human trafficking and overstaying, the US Department of Homeland Security (US DHS) has removed the Philippines from its list of countries that are eligible for the H-2A and H-2B non immigrant visas, according to a notice posted on the Federal Register Website.
The H-2A program allows US employers to employ foreign nationals for seasonal or temporary agricultural jobs. Meanwhile, the H-2B program brings in foreign nationals to fill temporary non agricultural jobs.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said: “When you say human trafficking, the US government must have conducted investigation on that. If their investigation yields that there was a violation, oh I don’t think puwede tayong makialam doon (we can interfere). What we can do is to do our own controls here….”
He added, “First, we need to know whether there is basis for their decision.”
“If we can see na wala naman (that there is none), then we will ask for a reconsideration — but that’s the job again, as I said, of DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and the US Ambassador.”
In a notice on the Federal Register dated Jan. 18, the US DHS said: “The Secretary of Homeland Security has now determined, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, that the following countries should no longer be designated as eligible countries because they no longer meet the regulatory standards…Dominican Republic (H2-B only), Ethiopia, and the Philippines.” This is effective from Jan. 19 this year to Jan. 18, 2020.
“DHS and DOS (Department of State) also believe that these overstay and human trafficking concerns are severe enough to warrant removal from the H-2A visa program as well…. The Philippines’ continued inclusion creates the potential for abuse, fraud, and other harm to the integrity of the H-2A and H-2B visa programs,” the US DHS also said.
In a statement, the DFA said: “As visa issuances are a country’s prerogative, the DFA notes the concerns that led the DHS to arrive at its decision. Nonetheless, the Philippines is open to the possibility of working with the United States in addressing these issues, as it has previously done so with similar concerns involving the Filipino Community there.”
The DFA added that the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., along with the other Philippine Consulates General in the US, “will continue to extend appropriate assistance to all its nationals pursuant to law.”