Immigration: Current And Upcoming Concerns Threaten Racing Industry’s Workforce

President-elect Donald Trump’s hardline stance on immigration could seriously threaten the size of the racing industry’s workforce, warns immigration attorney Will Velie in a Thoroughbred Racing Commentary report. Already, there are several states with strict backstretch licensing regulations which may showcase the issue that seems to be approaching the entire industry.

In Arizona, for example, workers must provide documentation proving that they are in the U.S. legally, and that they have work authorization, in order to receive a license. By contrast, California requires only a photo I.D. and fingerprints to get a license, leaving the employers responsible for ensuring the legality of their workers.

A potential impact that the Trump administration could have is a change over from I-9 verification, which requires employers to decide whether work authorization documents appear “reasonably genuine,” to E-Verification, which is an online authorization program which would require employers to face serious increases in costs.

Currently, the most-used form of work authorization for immigrants is the H2-B visa, though there’s a cap of 66,000 each year. Litigation issues with the program have caused difficulties over the last two years, and currently, according to the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a potential loss of the “Returning Worker Program” could sideline the entire program in that state before the start of 2017.

“If horsemen do not get the Returning Worker Exemption reinstated for Fiscal Year 2017 most, if not all, spring 2017 employers will not get H2B workers this year,” said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky HBPA. “Also, because of the increased demand for H-2B workers, many employers with April 1 or later dates of need won’t get their workers, either.”