Racing Industry could be Affected by lack of Immigrant Workers
It appears that another industry is being affected by the lack of immigrant workers, the horse racing industry. Apparently, finding committed backstretch workers has been a challenge for the racing industry for a long time. Because of this, many trainers have, for years, hired immigrants or temporary visa holders to offset the lack of American workers willing to do those jobs. However, recent changes in immigration policy have caused trainers to have some trouble getting visas for their workers, and unauthorized workers are afraid to travel with their charges. For example, some workers didn’t come to the Del Mar racetrack because they were worried about coming so close to the border and having to go through the Border Patrol checkpoint in San Clemente on the way back. Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, states,
We don’t have people showing up without documents, and we don’t have the documents to provide for people to work legally. It’s a real catch-22.
Many trainers claim that most U.S.-born workers are not willing to do that kind of labor and those who do apply often last only a couple of days before deciding the job is not for them. Others trainers also pointed out that because housing developers are building on former farmland, there are fewer places where Americans can learn the trade. To find people who are legally allowed to work in the U.S. to fill backstretch roles, trainers apply for H-2B visas, temporary non-agricultural work visas, which the federal government caps at 66,000 annually. In order to apply for the H-2B visas, employers have to demonstrate that they tried to hire Americans first, and they have to pay wages set by the Department of Labor. It will be interesting how the horse racing industry deals with this issue and if they will get more involved in immigration reform.