Philippines May Appeal Trump's Ban on Temporary U.S. Work Visas

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines wants more information on the Trump administration’s move to stop issuing temporary worker visas to Filipinos, and may appeal the decision if it’s found without basis.

The Southeast Asian nation will look for other countries where its citizens can work should the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pursue its ban on temporary worker visas for Filipinos, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.

“We need to know the basis of this decision,” Panelo said during a televised briefing. “And if we see that there’s none, we will ask for a reconsideration.”

The Philippine Foreign Affairs Department, in a separate statement, reminded its citizens to respect U.S. immigration rules, and expressed openness to work with American authorities to address the issue.

The U.S. agency imposed the ban starting Jan. 19, saying in a notification last week that many Philippine citizens don’t comply with the terms of the visas. Nearly 40 percent of Filipinos who received an H-2B visa overstayed, it said.

The H-2B visas allow a foreign worker to come temporarily to the U.S. for non-agricultural services on a seasonal basis. The Philippines accounted for 767 H-2B visas in fiscal year 2017, the most in Asia but less than 1 percent of the total given out worldwide, according to State Department statistics.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila also issues the greatest number of T-derivative visas, which are reserved for family members of victims of severe forms of human trafficking, the Homeland Security Department said. The embassy in Manila issued about 40 percent of total T-derivative visas issued worldwide from 2014 to 2016, and many of the victims were trafficked on H-2B visas, it said.

The Department of Homeland Security and Department of State “are concerned about the high volume of trafficking victims from the Philippines who were originally issued H-2B visas and the potential that continued H-2B visa issuance may encourage or serve as an avenue for future human trafficking,” it said. The same ban was also imposed on Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic.

The move to ban Philippine temporary workers caused concern in Guam, an American territory. Governor Lou Leon Guerrero will restate Guam’s continued need for skilled labor from the Philippines for its military and civilian construction projects, Pacific Daily News reported.

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