The impact of H2-B workers is most felt on the island of Guam, as the military and some commercial projects depend solely on Philippines’ skilled workers.
It was in 1947 when thousands of skilled and unskilled Filipino laborers migrated to Guam under the H2-B temporary visa program.
Among them: cement masons, carpenters, ironworkers, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, and electricians.
Until late 2015, when USCIS started denying H2-B petitions in Guam due to high rate of over staying on the island territory.
The construction and housing industries here have been at a standstill. The proof — unfinished buildings in the Tumon area of Guam.
Fast forward to 2019 — more raw buildings are expected to be seen, as the Trump administration recently removed the Philippines off the list of approved countries that can take part in the H2-B program. The new one-year nationwide ban cites high rates of overstaying, and trafficking.
Newly elected governor Lou Leon Guerrero says that the absence of H2-B workers has been a challenge for the island since many contractors in Guam rely on workers from the Philippines, both civilian and military projects.
Ed Ilao, a business tycoon in Guam for over 4 decades, has been relying on H2-B construction workers for his construction projects.
“The lack of H2-B foreign worker is really impacting my business it has limited our growth because now we cannot bid on projects that we have the capabilities for, because we don’t have the workers to do them.”
Ilao adds that his company has tried recruiting workers from neighboring islands, but he admits the quality of work is different than what he’s accustomed to.
With the decrease of the labor force, Guam’s housing inventory has also dropped, and new home sales have screeched to a halt.
For now, the H2-B workers from the Philippines are still allowed for military projects. The island continues to lobby for opportunities for temporary civilian workers.