THE NEW TODAY would like to focus on a recent announcement that Grenada can now benefit from a specialised category of visas issued by the United States for foreigners to enter the country and engage inlegal temporary employment.
Grenada has now joined a group of 58 select countries that are now able to apply for H2A and H2B non-immigrant visas to work in the United States as the visas allow American employers to bring in a number of foreign nationals.
The Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) might have been handed an “election gift” from Washington through President Barrack Obama in light of the February 19 national poll in the Spice Isle.
Are the decision-makers in the United States sending a subtle message to the Grenadian electorate as they ponder on whether to stick with the trusted leadership of Prime Minister Thomas and his Congress party or return to the days of ole through Dr. Keith Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) brigade?
The timing of this announcement by the U.S Government should not be taken lightly.
The H2A and H2B non-immigrant visas have been used successfully by our sister CARICOM States like Jamaica and Barbados to find employment opportunities for their people and to help in the critical area of remittances.
As the worldwide recessions bites harder and harder, our people now have before them an opening to seek employment opportunities to improve on their lot in life.
This newspaper understands that this special category of visas was traditionally used to recruit workers for temporary jobs in the areas of farm and non-agricultural labour in the United States.
This development, if handled properly can provide meaningful employment for many skilled Grenadian workers who no longer will live in fear of going to the U.S to work on visitor’s visas that clearly preclude them from engaging in employment.
Our government should take a lead role in putting the systems in place to help recruit Grenadians to take opportunities that might be available in areas such as auto-mechanic body shops, landscaping, truck drivers, the tourism and hospitality industry and agricultural farms.
THE NEW TODAY did some research into the H-2A and H-2B visas and found out the following:
• Many of the (American) businesses filing H-2B petitions for foreign workers are “body shops” that have no actual “seasonal or temporary” need for labor. Body shops can petition for large numbers of workers and then essentially sell them off to companies that either could not get their own H-2B workers or did not know how to do so.
• While many H-2B jobs offer low wages of less than $10 per hour, a substantial number of H-2B visas go to more skilled workers who earn up to $40 per hour. Industries that are particularly heavy users of the H-2B program include landscaping, forestry, hotels and restaurants, amusement parks and leisure facilities, and seafood processors.
Prime Minister Thomas and NDC should make this an important issue in the remaining days of the February 19 general elections.
This “gift” to Grenada did not come during the 13 years of rule of Dr. Mitchell and NNP but under a Congress Administration that has consistently promoted a Good Governance agenda with accountability and integrity being the hallmark of its tenets in office.
This should be compared with Mitchell’s tenure in office in which Grenada lost big times with Canada when Ottawa was forced to impose Visa restrictions on our nationals in the face of madness that was taking place in St. George’s.
Both the United States and Canada were extremely concerned about Grenada’s open door policy in which all kinds of crooks, con-men and criminal elements were allowed to take advantage of its economic citizenship programme under which Grenadian passports were sold to some of the highest bidders.
It is a fact which the then NNP rulers cannot deny that some of their operatives used the selling of passports to become millionaires almost overnight.
One popular shopping centre in Grand Anse was built with some of the proceeds from the sale of Grenadian passports.
Prime Minister Thomas should go beyond the utterances he made lastSunday at the NDC rally at Tanteen when in reference to the H-2A and H-2B visas, he said that the U.S government did this for Grenada in order to repay St. George’s because the island “once again has an enhanced image internationally”.
The Prime Minister needs to go beyond the statement, “This is a significant development. Grenada’s good name has been restored. There is value in a good reputation”.
The 2013 elections is a most defining one for the country since the most critical issue is whether the people would continue with integrity, good governance and accountability or return to the possibility of 10-15 years of an agenda based on “ah want to eat a food” regardless of the source of the funds.
A country gets the government it truly deserves.
The people of the Tri-island State are fully aware of the delivery record of the NNP in terms of the millions that were squandered with fly-by-night investors resulting in the death of the small hotels like No Problem Apartments, Cedars Inn, the Village Hotel, Maffiken Apartments, the Poultry project at Victoria, the desalinations plants in Carriacou and Woburn, E.J Miller and the Ritz Carlton hotel at Mt. Hartman, the Call Centre, and the MNIB fiasco in the Lagoon.
Let’s prove soca man, Lavaman wrong when he says, “Is so we dey”. Our destiny is in our own hands regardless of which side is using a war chest of dollars to win Election 2013.