Ambassador’s Remarks to the NCAE Employer Labor Forum
Wed., Nov. 29, 2023, 3:45 pm,
Las Vegas, Nevada
I’m William Duncan, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. And right about now you may be wondering why the heck I’m speaking to a NCAE forum. So I’ll get right to the point.
El Salvador has more good workers than it has good jobs. To stop illegal migration and increase overseas markets for U.S. products, we are working to connect those workers with U.S. employers.
Before I became Ambassador, I was Consul General in Monterrey, Mexico. There we did 61% of all the temporary work visas – H2 visas – in the world – more than all the rest of the consulates in the world put together.
So, when I got to El Salvador and realized we had all these workers, I knew we had an opportunity to help U.S. farmers and help some deserving people in Central America who just wanted an opportunity to work.
I’m from Arkansas and a descendant of a long line of not wildly successful farmers. I know how important you are and how tough your business is.
You know better than I do the challenge of finding workers.
The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates there are roughly 2.4 million farm jobs that need to be filled annually. I think we can help.
In El Salvador, we have developed an H2 visa program that has grown over 600 percent in the last three years. We work very closely with El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry to identify workers who will meet the needs of U.S. employers.
We issued over 7,400 H visas last year.
And the feedback from U.S. employers about those workers has been nothing but positive.
Most of our visas so far have been H2B (hotels, gardening, etc.), but this year we had H2A temporary agricultural workers in ten states.
The feedback on them has been very positive.
We want to expand our H2A program.
Working with the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry we have created a database of 84,000 workers.
They are ethically recruited and vetted to meet your needs.
We screen and interview candidates to ensure they are the most qualified for our U.S. farmers.
And while in other countries you would pay a recruiter to do this, there are no private recruiter fees for you for this pre-screening process.
Embassy San Salvador processes H2 visas in five to seven business days.
You must be asking, “what’s the bottom line?”
In addition to a rigorous vetting process, we have been working to reduce the cost to you of transportation for workers from El Salvador.
As a result, I can announce today that the Salvadoran government is now prepared to underwrite 100% of the transportation cost for their workers going to the U.S. on H2A visas.
This is a personal initiative of El Salvador’s President, and offers an unbeatable advantage to American farmers in hiring Salvadoran temporary workers.
And there is more news to share with you today. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Program is providing grants to help you obtain H2A workers.
If you hire workers from El Salvador, you could be eligible for a platinum grant ranging from $200,000 to $2,000,000.
Adding this to the other benefits, we can help you secure the labor you need at a cost saving to you.
The USDA grant application period has been extended to January 3, 2024, and more information is available on USDA’s website.
Finally, I want to emphasize that hiring workers from El Salvador is a win for you and for the Salvadorans you hire who will be able to provide a higher standard of living for their families and communities back in El Salvador, using what they have earned to start or expand a small business, creating more jobs in El Salvador.
This helps improve prosperity in an otherwise poor country.
75% of illegal migrants report that they are migrating for economic reasons.
By sourcing good workers from El Salvador, you are improving the lives of their families and communities so they don’t have to make the dangerous journey north in search of a better future and helping us better control our borders and keep America safer.
Salvadorans have a reputation as highly motivated and reliable workers.
I have seen firsthand the spirit and drive that they bring to their jobs.
But I’d like you to hear what actual employers have to say.
Thank you, and I’ll be available for any questions you might have during the break.
It is now an honor for me to introduce Gerardo Perez from El Salvador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who has come here to tell you about his government’s commitment to this program.