Crab feast

Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

Trump administration visa policy hurting Maryland crabbers — and consumers

The state has no expectation of filling its needs.

July 11, 2018 - 7:26 am

By Jay Lloyd

CAMBRIDGE, Md. (KYW Newsradio) — So, you love to crack crabs or enjoy a crab cake dinner? It just got pricier. A major change to a visa policy that provided workers for Maryland crab houses has had some unintended but expensive consequences for that backyard summertime crab feast. 

For 2018, the Trump administration changed the method of awarding H2B visas for seasonal workers to fill jobs that could not be filled by local workers across the country. It went from a first-come, first-served basis to a random lottery. The Maryland crab-picking industry was a big loser. 

Aubrey Vincent of Lindy's Seafood in Cambridge, Maryland, gets most of her seasonal workers from Mexico. 

"Over 40 percent of Maryland's crab processing industry did not receive the visas that they've come to rely on," Vincent said.

The administration has recently added more visas, but the season is already well underway, and the lottery system is still in force, so Maryland has no expectation of filling its needs.

Vincent says there is a ripple effect across the industry. 

"It's increasing the cost to the consumer. It's affecting the quality of the product," Vincent said.

The loss of the visas has not created more local jobs. Rather, it has reduced work opportunities and payrolls for many others who relied on crab pickers for their work.