The Guam Contractors Association board voiced concerns in a meeting Thursday with Del. Michael San Nicolas about his position on the latest developments on the ongoing H-2B crisis, an issue that has gone unresolved for nearly four years.
San Nicolas is back on Guam from Washington D.C. and attended the meeting in person along with his district director Jennifer Winn.
Over the past week, the Office of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and the island’s business community have raised the alarm over the latest blow delivered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which removed the Philippines from the list of countries eligible to take part in the H-2B visa program.
The GCA board took exception to the statement issued by the delegate Wednesday in response to the DHS notice posted in the Federal Register.
"It is clear that the tit-for-tat of using lawsuits to address Guam's H-2B issues is only going to further complicate matters. I look forward to an opportunity to reset the dialogue,” San Nicolas said.
"We need to work with the concerns of the State Department and approach the issue not as adversaries but as partners with the federal government," he said.
GCA President James Martinez said the board members at the meeting told San Nicolas they had concerns about what he said to the media.
"He seemed to think that our lawsuit aggravated the situation," Martinez said. "We knew he was misinformed."
The Guam Contractors Association and 11 other Guam employers filed a class-action lawsuit against USCIS in October 2016 after its yearlong, near-100 percent denial of all petitions for skilled foreign workers under the H-2B visa program.
Martinez and the board explained to San Nicolas how they tried, but failed, to work with USCIS to overcome the H-2B issue before they filed their lawsuit.
“I said, ‘We had no other recourse,’” Martinez said. “We exhausted every (option) to keep it out of the court.”
The GCA won a decision in January 2018 by Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood of the District Court of Guam, who ordered USCIS to reverse its previous denials of H-2B worker petitions and stop the blanket denial of future petitions.
However, little progress has been made since getting approval for H-2B petitions on nonmilitary-related projects. The GCA believes USCIS has not complied with Tydingco-Gatewood’s order and in October 2018 filed a contempt motion with the court, seeking to force compliance. That motion is pending.
Martinez said he is in the process of providing San Nicolas with documentation of the GCA efforts to avoid litigation and copies of all the court filings since the lawsuit was filed, “so he can see the reasons why we started this litigation in the first place.”
In an emailed response to the Guam Daily Post delegate San Nicolas stated - "If the GCA believes we are mistaken or misinformed we invite them to continue along their current course if they feel it is wisest."