Congress votes $354.6 million for Guam buildup projects
H-2B visa program will allow up to 4,000 workers for buildup and related projects
Washington, D.C. – Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo announced that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Conference Agreement on H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, by a vote of 356 yeas to 70 noes. The agreement authorizes $692.1 billion for the Department of Defense and defense-related programs with an additional $65.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funds for war operations and other anti-terror activities.
The conference agreement fully authorizes $354.6 million for military construction projects for Guam to support the ongoing progress on the Marine realignment as well as current operations which include the hardening of select military facilities.
The agreement further provides the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services with flexibility to administer the H-2B visa program on Guam. Specifically, the agreement provides up to 4,000 H-2B temporary workers per year to support construction or facility services that are directly connected to, or associated with, the Marine realignment. This would enable civilian infrastructure funded by the federal government, the government of Guam, or non-governmental sources that are being done, in part, because of the increased number of military personnel and military families moving to Guam. The provision additionally extends Guam’s exemption from the national H-2B visa cap until 2023.
During the House’s consideration of the NDAA, Congresswoman Bordallo clarified Congress’ intent of the provision with House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) in allowing individuals to perform work not only on military-funded facilities and infrastructure, but also for civilian infrastructure projects outside the gate. For example, infrastructure projects funded by the federal government, the government of Guam, or non-governmental sources that are being done, in part, because of the increased number of military personnel and military families moving to Guam
“The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 takes important steps to support our men and women in uniform and their families, and it provides the DoD with authorities to carry out their missions at home and abroad. However Congress has still not repealed sequestration, and in doing so we deny DoD the budget stability it needs to support the training, maintenance, and modernization needs of our forces.
“The bill makes progress to help alleviate Guam’s H-2B visa crisis by providing USCIS with flexibility to approve H-2B visas for Guam construction projects directly related to, or associated with, the military buildup. While this is not the full solution I introduced in the House bill, it is a step in the right direction and overcomes strong opposition by the Senate and the Trump Administration to providing relief for non-DoD construction projects. Our provisions is clear that these H-2B visas should be approved not only for military construction, but also for civilian infrastructure projects outside the gate funded by the federal government, the Government of Guam, or non-governmental entities that are being done, in part, because of increased military personnel and their families on Guam.
“As we move forward, I look forward to working with our local leaders and partners to overcome the objections that were expressed by the Senate and Administration and provide for full relief for our health care and other industries. I also support Governor Calvo’s efforts and hope he is successful in getting the Trump Administration to administratively reverse USCIS’s H-2B visa denials.
“I am further pleased that the FY18 NDAA moves forward with investments needed for the military buildup, including over $354 million in military construction for Guam. I have consistently supported of the buildup so long as it is good for Guam’s civilian community, which has been my position for the last 15 years when I was first elected to Congress and the buildup was just being conceived. I have worked every day to keep the buildup on track while holding the DoD accountable to its commitments to the people of Guam.
“I appreciate the bipartisan cooperation in developing the FY18 NDAA. I hope the Senate will act swiftly to pass it so it can be sent to President Trump for enactment.”