US: Tell Your Representative to Look Out for Seafarers

Jul 14, 2014

by Douglas B. Stevenson, Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) recently introduced H.R. 5080 in the House of Representatives. If enacted, the Bill would extend the validity of foreign seafarers’ I-95 conditional landing permits (shore passes) from 29 days to 90 days, greatly improving the lives and well-being of many seafarers.

Under current law, foreign seafarers’ shore passes expire after 29 days. This limit creates hardships for seafarers on vessels that have been detained or abandoned in the United States for more than 29 days and for seafarers on vessels that operate in United States waters for more than 29 days. Ships undergoing repairs, ships anchored awaiting cargo, and ships making several port calls on one voyage to the United States can easily remain in the country for more than 29 days. This Bill brings the Immigration and Nationality Act in line with the realities of current maritime industry requirements.

Please write to your Representative in Congress expressing your support for H.R. 5080. (I recommend that you write to your Representative by email rather than surface mail.) You can write to your Representative directly from the following website:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Sample Letter

The Honorable (full name)

(Room #) (Name) House Office Building

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515



Dear Representative __________________,

I write to support H.R. 5080 “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to extend the period of time for which a conditional permit to land temporarily may be granted to an alien crewman.” This Bill would extend the validity of foreign seafarers’ I-95 conditional landing permits (shore passes) from 29 days to 90 days. Under current law, foreign seafarers’ shore passes expire after 29 days. This limit creates hardships for many foreign seafarers by terminating their shore leave when their vessels have been detained or abandoned in the United States for more than 29 days or when their vessels operate in United States waters for more than 29 days. Ships under repair in United States shipyards, ships anchored awaiting cargo, and ships making several port calls on one voyage to the United States can easily remain in United States waters for more than 29 days.

United States prosperity and security depend on merchant shipping, and merchant shipping depends on seafarers. Shore leave is necessary to a seafarer’s emotional, spiritual, cultural and physical well-being. Shore leave is a basic right that should be granted to all seafarers except in the most extreme circumstances. As the US Supreme Court decided in its 1943 decision Aguilar v. Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, 318 U.S. 724:

Relaxation beyond the confines of the ship is necessary if the work is to go on, more so that it may move smoothly. No master would take a crew to sea if he could not grant shore leave, and no crew would be taken if it could never obtain it. Even more for the seaman than for the landsman, therefore, “the superfluous is the necessary … to make life livable” and to get work done. In short, shore leave is an elemental necessity in the sailing of ships, a part of the business as old as the art, not merely a personal diversion.

H.R. 5080 would greatly improve the lives and well-being of many seafarers who are so vital to the United States economy and security, would bring the Immigration and Nationality Act in line with the realities of current maritime industry requirements, and it would not cost any tax dollars. I urge you to support this Bill.