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Far from the Winner’s Circle: Recent Developments in the H-2B Visa Program and the Impacts on the Horseracing Industry in the United States

By USCRI September 8, 2020

A statue of the famous American racehorse Secretariat stands at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, one of the world’s largest international equestrian competition centers. Led by his longtime groom Eddie Sweat and Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte in the irons, the bronze Secretariat memorializes the historic 1973 Triple Crown win. The sculptor specifically included Sweat due to the groom’s vital role in Secretariat’s success. Support roles such as Sweat’s in horseracing are crucial to the industry. Over the past 30 years, these roles have been increasingly filled by immigrant labor, generally from Central and South America. Even the jockey of the 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharaoh, was from Mexico. Yet, the recent changes to immigrant labor categories, such as the H-2B visa, along with border restrictions have caused a shortage in available labor for support roles in the horseracing industry. Without adequate workers, the number of racing entries has dropped. Such shortages represent significant losses for the U.S. economy. Prior to the changes, the horse industry contributed approximately $39 billion directly to the U.S. economy annually, with approximately $26.1 billion generated from the racing segment.1 In particular, horseracing is vital for local economies in Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Florida, and California. The topic of immigrant labor in the horseracing industry has come to the surface this Triple Crown season, the first leg of which, the Kentucky Derby, was run on September 5. In this brief, we look at the structure of the H-2B visa, the recent changes, the impacts on the industry, and a solution to allow workers and industry professionals to continue to contribute to the American economy.

Read the full report 9_8_20_Brief_Horseracing


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