Denver Landscaper Struggles To Find American Workers, Relies on Seasonal Visas

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Photo: Landscape business owner Jesus 'Chuy' Medrano
Jesus "Chuy" Medrano, owner of CoCal Landscape in Denver

CoCal Landscape says the commercial landscaper can't find enough workers who are American citizens, and this year the company had to turn down contracts because it couldn't get enough legal seasonal laborers from Mexico. Like many landscapers across the country, CoCal relies on the H-2B visa program to hire workers, but this year Congress made those visas harder to get.

CoCal Landscape and its owner Jesus "Chuy" Medrano were recently profiled in The Washington Post. Tracy Jan reported the story in Colorado and in Mexico, and tells Colorado Matters that CoCal lost about $1.7 million in business this year because it didn't get as many H-2B visas as the company wanted early in the season. Jan says landscaping is the industry that relies most on H-2Bs; others include ski resorts, commercial seafood, logging and tourism.

However, nationwide the H-2B program has prompted lawsuits, accusations of abuse and complaints that visa recipients take jobs that U.S. residents would otherwise do. This year Congress reduced the number of workers who could come on the visas, and then faced blowback from businesses. At that point the Trump administration allowed employers to apply for more H-2Bs, but they arrived late in the summer season.