Foreign Workers Love it in Northwest Florida

Many local businesses depend on seasonal foreign workers to fill labor jobs most Americans don't want, but the door that allows foreign workers on U.S. soil is beginning to close.

Vijaye Walker and Dianne Roach are from Jamaica but spend a good part of the year working at Sandestin. They're part of the H2B Visa program which allows foreigners to work in the U.S.

Diane says it’s a great place to work.

“I enjoy working with the staff here. They're precious people and I always look forward to coming back to Sandestin. It has always been my goal.”

Vijaye says it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

“It gives me an opportunity to travel from Jamaica, go somewhere new, somewhere different.”

But in 2004, Homeland Security placed a cap on the number of foreign workers allowed into the country. What was around 120,000 has been cut almost in half to 66,000.

Sandestin officials say they have contacted lawmakers about possible exemptions to the cap, Lawmakers who have listened but not done much else.

Sylvia Hanks is the VP Human Resources and says, “Looking at the co-sponsorship on the floor right now, none of our Florida senators or representatives has yet to co-sponsor any of the legislation to correct this.”

With few jobs in Jamaica, working at Sandestin is the only option for people like Dianne and Vijay.

“If that shall ever go from us, not only I will be hurt but a whole lot of Jamaicans would be hurt not only here at Sandestin but right around. To be honest, I don't look forward to that. I don't know what I do because if there's no jobs in Jamaica; it’s just hard to survive.

They say Sandestin is more than just a job; it’s their livelihood and their family's as well.

Sandestin officials employ 1,400 people and nearly 200 have H2B Visas.


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