“Without Them, We’d Be In Trouble For Sure”: Immigration Crackdown Has Many In Racing Worried

by | 11.08.2017 | 1:08pm
An exercise rider cleans his tack after morning training at Churchill Downs

Tightening immigration policies and the recent increase of raids by immigration agents are threatening to lead to a major manpower shortage throughout the U.S. horse racing industry.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, finding – and keeping – committed employees “has been a challenge for the racing industry for a long time.” Many trainers say that many U.S.-born workers aren't willing to do such intensive labor; of those that do apply, many only last a few days.

They're vital to our industry,” trainer Bob Hess Jr. told the Union-Tribune regarding immigrant workers. “Without them, we'd be in trouble for sure.”

The H-2B visa is the most common authorization used by foreign nationals that work in horse racing. The visa is capped at 66,000 annually. In the past, returning worker exemptions didn't count against that number. However, that exemption expired in September 2016, and it wasn't extended.

William Velie, is an immigration attorney based in Oklahoma. He represents trainers across the country, and he told the publication that this year has been the “most difficult” for him to secure visas for his clients' workers.

Without the visas, and with the increase in raids and enforcement, many workers are too scared to go to work.

“That fear is palpable. It's right on the surface,” Velie said. “They're worried everything is going to be ripped away from them in one traffic stop.”

Read more in the San Diego Union-Tribune

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