TLAPACOYAN, Mexico – Francisco Trujillo heads north each summer to do a job few Americans want: a four-month stint operating carnival rides.
His annual journey was a routine shared by many in the city of Tlapacoyan, about 190 miles east of Mexico City, which supplies two-thirds or more of the 7,000 foreign workers hired by the U.S. amusement sector each year.
This year, however, Trujillo, 32, is caught in a debate over how many visas the U.S. government should issue to seasonal workers. He is among thousands of Mexicans who are stuck at home, unable to get permission to work across the border.
“They say we are taking jobs from the Americans,” said Trujillo, who has worked the last four carnival seasons in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Carnival work is “really hard,” he said, adding, “Americans don’t want to do it.”
As U.S. politicians and business owners wrangle over the limits on the number of H-2B visas for unskilled, nonagricultural workers, Tlapacoyan offers a glimpse of how the impasse has stung Mexico. Last year, Mexicans received more than 70 percent of the approximately 84,000 H-2B visas issued by the U.S.
The lack of visas has denied many of the city’s families an annual income that saves them from poverty and deepened the problems of a town struggling with high crime rates.