Lawmakers from Maryland and the Obama administration are scrambling to fight a federal court order that has shut down the guest worker program that connects foreigners with crab-picking jobs on the Eastern Shore and other low-paying, seasonal work around the country.
The administration wants to temporarily block a ruling out of Florida this month that found Congress never granted the U.S. Department of Labor the authority to certify employers for the program, which brings tens of thousands of seasonal workers into the country each year.
"That's devastating to my district," Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County lawmaker who represents the Eastern Shore, said of the program's halting. "What was the thinking behind the decision to just shut down the applications?"
Underscoring the seafood industry's sway, Harris, a conservative Republican, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a liberal Democrat, are both pressing the administration to restart the visa program.
"Watermen and seafood processors on the Eastern Shore can't wait around for bureaucratic dither and delay to hire the crab pickers they need to keep our seafood businesses operating," Mikulski said.
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