Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a visit to Myrtle Beach on Tuesday that visa programs need to be expanded to bring more workers to fill jobs that U.S. citizens won’t take in Horry County.
Graham spoke to a group of local business leaders, as well as Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, during a visit to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning.
“From here to Hilton Head I hear the same story. ‘We can’t find workers.’ In the service industry, in the agriculture industry, in the tourism industry,” Graham said.
He said that he hoped to increase the number of some worker visas by 50,000 or 60,000.
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“When I hear today in Washington that we need to limit the number of people coming into the country to work, that they’re taking jobs from Americans, I don’t buy that,” Graham said.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would crack down on the H-1B program, which mainly serves high-skilled workers. Technology companies have protested that new restrictions would inhibit their ability to fill jobs.
But local officials discussed another type of visa on Tuesday: the J-1 visa, which focuses on foreign students. It’s frequently used by businesses in Horry County and Myrtle Beach to bring in labor for seasonal jobs related to tourism.
Lazarus, who also is a part owner of water park Wild Water N Wheels, said the program is limiting because it only allows workers to come during certain months, and the area’s tourism season is expanding.
“I’ll hire over 1,000 kids this summer,” he said. “The J-1 visa program is a big program. It needs to be extended.”