The Immigration Guy

Business Talks with Ferris MyCue

August 10, 2022 Ferris MyCue Season 1 Episode 1
The Immigration Guy
Business Talks with Ferris MyCue
Show Notes Transcript

CEO & Founding Attorney of Farmer Law PC, Kyle Farmer, sits down with Ferris MyCue, CEO of Grass Works Lawn Care. They chat about starting a business, struggles as a business owner, and the H-2B business immigration visa program. We learn how business immigration isn't a political issue but something all business owners and constituents in any state can seek to improve. 

We know, the immigration system is messy! It’s complicated and confusing, especially for those looking to gain a visa or hire foreign workers. Farmer Law PC’s Immigration Guy, Kyle Farmer, knows all of the tricks of the trade. The firm specializes in innovative immigration solutions, some of which you’ll get to hear about on this podcast. Tune in for commentary on immigration-related news and industry insights, and The Immigration Guy’s thoughts on much more!

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**The information provided on this podcast does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only. Listeners of this podcast should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.  No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.  Use of, and access to, this podcast or any of the links or resources contained within the description do not create an attorney-client relationship between the listener and Kyle Farmer. **

Produced & Edited By: Drew Tattam

Hey y'all. Welcome to the Immigration Guy Podcast. We are with Ferris MyCue today. He's the owner and operator of Grassworks Lawn Care in Austin, and he serves the surrounding areas. I I know Ferris pretty well. He's a big advocate for the H-2B program. He's very knowledgeable of about the H-2B program and the players.

So, he is a great resource. He's also, his company's awesome. I, I do, I use them personally for my lawn care at home. They do good work, really responsive. If you're looking for 'em, you can find 'em Uh, they're great company. Hey y'all, this is the immigration guy with Kyle Farmer.

Ferris, why don't you just take a second to tell people about yourself? Hey, um, uh, my name is Ferris, Mikey, like Kyle said, and I own and operate a landscape business in Austin, Texas called Grassworks. Cool. Uh, so what got you into landscaping? What were you doing before then? Uh, I was a firefighter and, um, as many people know of firefighter schedule, you know, long hours and then time off, you know, so, uh, looking for ways to make extra cash and put a couple ads on Craigslist.

And the first one was like literally right down my street in Brushy Creek and Round Rock, and I made like 75 bucks for a one-time mow. And I just, the math seemed right for me. Yeah, that makes sense. So, you, what year was that, that you started? That was 2007. 2007. Okay. Cool. And when did you go into it full-time?

Uh, I think we, we really turned the gas on probably 2016. We really got focused. It was the year, uh, my daughter was born. So, it kinda, you know, my, the dad moment, like, you know, the boy to man moment. It was that 2016 mark. So, did, did you have any employees at that point? 2010. We had our first crew. Oh, really?

Hired my first employee. Is that when you were still a firefighter? Mm-hmm. So, you had both, we're running both. And it was, it was difficult. Yeah. It was, it wasn't cupcakes and fairy tales, but it was, um, it was definitely a, a big juggle, if you will. So how many people did you have, let's say at the most, from 2010 to 2016 to 81 point?

We were running about six crews. Okay. from 2010 to about 2016 fluctuated with turnover and, you know, hiring certain jobs and certain types of, uh, seasons. You know, it could be a dry season, it could be a slow season, busy season. So, it was about 68 crews from 2010 to 2016. So then, was it just a point whenever you had your daughter where you were just like, I need to either go all in on this or, or not?

What made you say like, okay, I don't, I'm not gonna do the firefighter thing, I'm going all in? Landscaping the opportunity and the central Texas was booming. Yeah. And well, that's part of it. I I, I knew my having a daughter wouldn't be cheap, so you, uh, yeah. You started, it's, it's, I had some find someone to pay the bills.

Yeah. You know, and uh, that was kind of it. That's cool. So, what do you think was the hardest thing about starting your own business? Oh, wow. This is go, this is more than a podcast. Yeah. Well, in my industry, in the landscape space, it's not easy work, right? It's outside. It's hot. It's, you were doing it too.

Yeah. Yeah. I was doing both. And the, you know, recruiting and onboarding employees, it's not something, uh, you know, uh, a ready and willing American. take on. It's not an ideal job. Very labor intensive. So, what did you think, what, whenever you were starting your business, was there any aspect about it where you were fearful of any of the risk?

Uh, risk as far as not being able to operate on a financial level or just, yeah, because I mean, you, you, you're taking on some responsibility. You know, whenever you're buying equipment, you're buying lawnmowers, those sorts of things aren't cheap. What, what? What did that feel like, taking on that kind of risk?

Oh, the risk was not comfortable. Yeah, I mean, it's sometimes it's calculated. Yeah. Um, you know, educated guesses. Mm-hmm. a lot. Mm-hmm. and, uh, common sense. And then the other part of that was just applying it to the market. You know, there's, uh, it, it is interesting cuz I, I remember whenever I was first getting started, one of the things that was most intimidating to me was hiring someone because I was so scared that, you know, I would hire someone that all of a sudden, they'll work, would fall apart.

And now, that person's relying on me. And that's a, that was always a really intimidating thing for me. Absolutely. Yeah. You have a lot of obligations. Yeah. And you're really feeding a lot of families I know. And taking care of a lot of other people that you don't really see directly. Yeah. That, that even, even to this point, uh, I mean, I'm not nearly as fearful about hiring people anymore just because our business has grown so much, but, uh, oh, I walk in here and Ferris from Grassworks, Ferris from Grassworks. Do I know you? And then everyone's so nice. Appreciate that. A lot of hospitality. Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate that. Yeah. They're, they're, they're good people. I have, one of the things that I try to focus on though is, uh, growing in a, in a financially responsible way.

Cuz, you know, right now it's, I I think that it's, it's tempting in a lot of ways to act reckless. Uh, because of how competitive the job market is here, and you can do a lot of things to be pretty reckless, but then that the problem that I see with. Is if you are reckless, whenever you have to be aggressive like you are now, uh, the consequences on the other side of that.

So, let's say during a recession and people start, this work starts slipping. Uh, and the, the consequences of that, of having to lay people off, that's something that I'm not, I'm not doing. I just want, I, I won't do it. Like in 2020, we. A huge dip in work from COVID, uh, especially being immigration lawyers.

You know that that year was, it was a, it was a tough year, I think for most businesses, and ours was no different, but. It was just one of those things like I refused to lay people off cuz of COVID. I'm not doing it. And so, I, I try to grow my business with that in mind. And I, I think a lot of that is just because, you know, growing up not a lot of consistent financial security and so now I, which I'm, I'm really grateful for. Yeah.

Actually, at this point. Absolutely. And I think it makes a big difference in how you, your mentality towards other people and, and their reliance on it. It makes a big difference whenever you actually know how that feels. Whenever, you know, I can provide an opportunity for people where they don't have to worry about fluctuations and market conditions, but it does take a lot of financial responsibility and foresight in the first place.

So that's something that we really try to focus on and prioritize and hopefully communicate to our people. So, kind of a, kind of an interesting thing, especially right now with inflation so high. Oh, it seems like every year we'll present you something like you just mentioned COVID was... yeah. You couldn't hire and couldn't fire it.

It was just a weird, weird position. It was really weird. And I don't know about you, but the current state of energy right now has. Affected operations, you know, bottom line. Yes. And what, what people don't understand is it's so detailed. Everything has gotten so expensive. There's not much option. You can only get so creative. Yeah.

For so long. Well, and, and I imagine for you, I mean, so for us, it impacts us, but kind of in a secondary way. Because if it impacts our clients, it impacts us for you. It would impact you directly cuz y'all run everything on fuel. I mean, so we have a big fuel invoice. I if it's bigger than Kyle's invoice. Um, but it's, um, it's what are we gonna do get, get Teslas and. No. And, um, SunPower lawn mowers, I mean, it's just not, technology's not gonna, you're not gonna run a bunch of Airbnb’s out there, not gonna be switching out batteries all the time. No, I, I don't, I would, I would probably come work for you. I, I, I would do something else. It wouldn't be, it wouldn't be practical.

No, it wouldn't. I know. I know it's crazy. When did you start using the H-2B program? Oh, I used, I started using the H-2B program back in the Obama administration in 2015. Okay. So, you were still u you were using that while you were still firefighting and actually just right before you transitioned out?

Yes, that's, that's correct. In the. I was actually 2014 and I got, um, I had some bad counsel advice. Mm-hmm, you know, I came my H-2B attorney at the time. Not me. Not you, not, not Kyle Farmer. Uh, and I won't say the other names. Um, I got some kind of, some, you know, lies of fair advice, lazy advice, and, uh, I, I, unfortunately I took it.

Yeah. Cause I didn't know any better, and I had to wait a whole nother year and basically to answer your question, 2015, uh, Obama administration, the reason I highlight Obama administration, cuz I think that transition between Obama and Trump really turned the program. Mm-hmm. It really eye-opening to the program.

And I think historically, I think the pro, that's when the program is really changing. You see these fast caps; you get these employers. having their labor issues now. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, and looking back on it historically, the, the biggest change that I've ever seen with it was actually between the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

And we've talked about this Yeah. Like a couple weeks ago. Yeah, I believe so. Yeah. Yeah. The Bush administration was really H-2 friendly with H-2A, H-2B. They were really, really friendly. And what we've had now is a, a streak of three presidents in a. That are not nearly as H-2 friendly. Yeah, I, I completely agree.

And I can kind of identify and label the pros and cons of each administration. Yeah. And not to make it political, whether it's left right in the middle. Ah, that's not, I don't mind because it that, well, the H-2B program is definitely, and I'm pro-business. Yeah. That's all it is. Yeah. It's definitely, um, it's, it's pro-business.

It's, uh, in my opinion, it can get the economies moving quickly. It can get people up in the air. Yeah. I mean, you're not struggling. You're actually have, you can go to market Yeah. With the good labor force. Yeah. That's kind of simple, but I, well, so, and it, it is interesting, and I talk to people about this all the time with H-2.

It's not like you have a straight party-political ally, you have allies in both parties. You tend to have more allies that are Republican. That's just how it is. But there are some democratic allies. Uh, the ones that are definitely not your allies are the ones that are owned by the labor unions. Correct.

That's the reality. And, and you've seen, I mean, like Nancy Pelosi for example, has single-handedly obstruct. Some really favorable H-2B legislation and the budget bills for several years in a row. I mean, I don't think that she would even say, no, I haven't. I think she would be like, yeah, of course I have.

But it is kind of interesting cause you also see Republicans that are like, just pay people more. Yeah. Just pay people more. Facts. Facts. We, we can go, I mean we can talk about this is um, this is why the conversations. dynamic. Yeah. The H-2B topic is so dynamic. Yeah, it is. And then it really is, and we have some leadership here in Texas that, like you just mentioned, that you know, why don't you just pay more, just pay more. Yeah. And. And, um, we also have some representation. Just wants to ignore it. Yeah. Because they're constituents are, you know, whether it's the conservative or liberal, they just, they feel like there's jobs here that people are simply are, you know, they feel like, why don't you hire Americans? Yeah. Well, Americans, the truth is it's not ready and willing to conduct these types of jobs.

Yeah. You know? But, um, so I think this actually brings up a pretty interesting point, and I have a feeling I know what your answer's gonna be. Oh. And I'm ready to answer. But what do you think is the biggest shortcoming of the H-2B program? The biggest shortcoming you can, there's, this is another, it's another day conversation, but you can live and die by the program.

Yeah. You can live and die by the program. because you can have a big influx of guys what? Whatever your petition demands 20, say it's 20 guys. You're just starting. Yeah. You're a young business owner and you're hopeful and you're putting a lot of energy and as many people will tell you, it's uh, a lot of businesses fail.

You just started and you have a wife and kids, and you don't make it. Yeah. Because you get your guys, you start building your clientele, and then per your agreement, your guys go back in November and then your application gets put into a lottery and say it's group C. And for those, I don't know, the cap usually gets.

Maxed out is been, is becoming quicker and quicker. Yeah. Every, every year for the last four years. But yeah, group, if you don't, if you're not in group A, you're, you're, you're outta luck. You're okay if you have a cap-subject petition, right? Correct. I guess just to explain that a little bit, what the way that the H-2B program works is they have 66,000 visas that are.

issued under the H-2B regulations and they, the government breaks those out based off the government's fiscal year. So, 33,000 of 'em on October 1st, 33,000 of 'em for an April 1st start date, and for the April 1st start dates, which is what makes up the vast majority of applications. That cap gets hit extremely fast.

I think that there were 120 something thousand people applied for, for 33,000 spots, something like that. A hundred, 2000 30,000. And so yeah, the cap gets hit really fast, which is I think the biggest shortcoming of the H should be programmed is the numerical cap, especially without a returning worker exemption.

which used to be the best thing ever Yeah. Was the returning worker exemption. But it, it is definitely a, I think that the numerical cap is one thing that just demonstrates the politicization of something that just didn't need to be political, because numerical caps don't actually make sense, especially whenever you're talking about a non-immigrant visa that has to be petitioned for, and the labor market has to be tested every single year.

So what value is. In the numerical cap other than to restrict the issuance of these visas. Well, why do you need to restrict the issuance of the visa? If the employer's testing the labor market to demonstrate it's not adversely affecting the US workforce, it doesn't make any logical sense. Man, I've had a call.

Yeah, it's, this is where, um, we should have took our blood pressure at the, at the beginning of this podcast. Well, well know based off how much we're sweating. Yeah, I mean, that's some really good data. But, um, I've had call, you know, back to the. I mean, because this is, again, HGB is very dynamic and very hard to understand, especially for someone who doesn't know yeah, anything about it.

But back to the captain, what's even more frustrating is when the caps head Congress, so again, if you don't know what, anything about the H-2B. Congress has the authority, Kyle probably knows a little bit more about than I do, but Congress has the authority to, I forgot what the number is, but to extend, yeah, they can increase the number of visas that are issued each fiscal year, and they usually do it in the budget bill, so you usually see it coming through in December.

But here's the prompt, the cap hit, gets hit for round two, um, very early. It's mid-February by the time they figure out they're going to extend the cap, put it in final rule. Is that what it's called? Yeah. Final, final law. Final. Um, yeah. So co congress delegates the authority to DHS to issue the visas, and so Congress does that in December.

So, DHS has this authority starting in December to increase the number of available visas. If you don't make the cap back to the shortcomings of the H-2B programs, small business, big business, any size business, if you don't get your cap, your best chance of getting your guys is gonna be mid to late June.

Yeah. Sometimes even later, right? Yeah. Okay. I'm, yeah. I'm getting your best case. Your, yeah. And when do you lose all of your revenue? Right in the spring. May, may, I should say that again. When you get all, when do you obtain all your revenue? Yeah. And typically, quarter two spring. Yeah. So now you're, you're just starting over.

Yeah. And you don't have any cash flow, you know, you don't have any, uh, capital, you don't have any cash flow. Um, you have your quality has decreased. Yeah. So, what about your reputation? Your, your reputation It has, has decreased. And then the other problem is now you have all these flyby night guys that are coming in and just.

You've really taking the market over. Yep. That's a Yeah. Isn't that, isn't that the great irony that by restricting legal immigration, you actually enable illegal immigration to displace the people that are legally trying to operate and, uh, fully compliant by paying sales tax? Yeah, and having workers comp and general auto general liability and...

Yeah, I mean, it's, it is just a mess. And I think that the, the policy makers, the decision makers in our country, unfortunately, um, since I've been in the program, have really, um, not communicated, been held by the labor gains. I mean, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I, I agree with you. And it is, it's absolutely mind blowing.

I mean, you, if you. If they, the, the policy makers like to operate based off of, and this is really just politics in general. Nowadays, politics in general nowadays are generally dumbed down to what's the easiest thing I can say to communicate to the most people, because that's where I'm going to, uh, get the most influence as opposed to actually trying to persuade people and actually trying.

Get information that makes my point more valid. And policymakers do that now. So, whether you're a Republican who will do it because immigration's an easy talking point, but then they, a lot of times they're against good forms of immigration that actually help their constituents. Uh, or if you're a Democrat that says, no, these are, you're, you're hurting the, uh, Low, the lower middle class and, and the, the people that need these jobs the most.

Yeah. You're driving their wages down. Yeah. And it's just, it's, and actually it's, it's, it's, it's so crazy. It's the opposite. You're creating jobs Yeah. That Americans, um, want to fulfill that are, yeah. Like what, what's, what's some examples of that? Oh, sales jobs. Inside sales. Outside sales, customer support, HR, accounting, lawyers, mid-management.

Yeah. Management. Management. Yeah. I call 'em leadership roles. Yeah. All our leadership roles are, in my opinion, low. We don't pay anyone below a hundred K. Yeah. That's just where we're at. Yeah. And to me, That's a substantial income. Yeah. You know, and, and that's awesome. And the reality is, is that wouldn't be possible, but for the use of legal forms of immigration to perform the work.

Yeah. I mean, I mean it's, yeah, it is, uh, that that's the another part that policy holders just completely miss back to leadership though, and decision makers, it's like this is how extreme the opinions are in H-2B, you know, like Ted Cruz. Yeah. He's very anti H-2B. What is Tech Cruz? He's, he's Republican. Yeah.

Yeah. And then we have Lloyd Doggett. Yeah. He's, which is a rep here in Austin. He's extremely the other way. Yeah. Pro H-2B No he's not. No, he's not, he's not, he's very anti, I thought Lloyd Doggett. Oh, okay. Maybe not. He's, he's, he's very anti H-2B and, and we've, we've been knocking on doors. Yeah. I, myself and my team, and, and the only, the only way you're gonna fix HT.

Contact your reps. Yeah, contact your congressman. Um, some don't even know what it is. They don't. That's the problem. Some, some. Um, my, I just recently moved about an hour west of Austin. I have a new rep and he told me it wasn't a, a house issue. What, whose issue is it? He told me it was a Senate issue and I, and I got him in touch with, uh, gray Delaney.

You know, it's a seasonal employment alliance. I think you've talked to Gray, or you know, gray a little bit. Yeah. And uh, I was like, I was joking. I was like, can I sue my rep? I mean, give me the time. I mean, yeah. And he, and this is, this is a right-wing, you know? Right. Again, I don't want, I'm try to keep politics out of it, but he wants to fix immigration.

Yeah. And I keep on, I still email him to this day. Yeah. If you wanna fix immigration, you need to fix H-2B because no one's speaking for the H-2B guys at all. You know? And what about these guys? They want, all they wanna do is come over here, make a good living up their quality of lives, take care of their family.

I say Mexico, but now H-2B is going all over. You know, we have Turkey, Thailand, it's a big deal. And I, I see all these requests cause we're on the job board, you know? Yeah. Anyway, we'll kind of start going in circles cuz back to the blood pressure comment. Just, it's just, it's just frustrating. It is frustrating.

I know. No, I, it is, I'm very sure that we will not have immigration reform anytime soon. Like, and it, that's just one of those things that it's just not gonna happen. The, the two sides are so competitive. Disconnected. And look, if I'm a, if I'm a Republican, I'm not gonna negotiate with Democrats on immigration reform because the only thing that the Democrats have been pushing for in immigration reform really is amnesty.

And the reason that they do that is, obviously for votes, but if I am a Democrat, I'm not going to negotiate with Republicans on immigration because Republicans tend to push business-friendly forms of immigration and really strong border control policies, and that's not what the Democrats want. So, I mean, they're, they're completely disconnected, and they have no incentive to work with each other.

And so, it's just, I don't foresee any time soon, any sort of immigration reform. Well, that was a positive outlook for the day. You're welcome. Yeah, it's It's really the same news. Yeah. You know, everyone's in agreeance with that and yeah. That's the sad part. Yeah, it is. It is. How often do you have the same guys come back?

year after year. We like to keep it; we like to keep 'em around. Yeah. You know, they're, they're, they're extremely loyal. There's, uh, very minimal issues. They come here for one reason, one reason only, is just to work big. Landscaping solves. They'll, I mean, multiple crews, multiple days, they'll get it done. Our customers loan, they have a good product.

I've used y'all, our landscaping, and I, I will. They do damn good work. Y'all are also super responsive, which I think is hugely important and for some reason undervalued and underappreciated by business owners nowadays. But y'all, y'all, uh, y'all have nailed it on that front too. Thank you. Of course. All right, well give us a, the most positive thing about using H-2B and then we'll, we'll end this thing.

I just had it this weekend. I had a guy walk up to me and, um, I'm very emotional, shared how grateful he was for the opportunity. Um, and he just got done with this like big system in Circle C big irrigation system, and it, it's hard work. It was about five-man crew, and it was Saturday. I was at the office getting some loose ends done and he came up to me and just shook my hand and was extremely grateful for the opportunity.

And, uh, I, I just was like, and this is, this is kind of why I do it. Yeah, you know, the, the, the great relationship between the employer and the employee provider service. It was just, you know, a feel-good moment. I do think that that is, uh, one of the coolest things about the HCP program is that you are giving jobs to people that really, really appreciate having 'em.

And it is jobs that people here do not want. It provides an opportunity for these people to come here and make money that they would have no hope for in their home. I think that that's one of the, the most amazing and cool things about the program, and also one of the reasons that it should really.

Expanded significantly is because it only is a net positive. It needs to be, it, it needs a tune up. Yeah. It needs a tune. It needs a, it needs like a quadruple tune-up, but yeah. Maybe a, a overhaul. Yeah, but All right. Cool. Well, we appreciate it, Ferris. We appreciate you coming here and, and talking with us.

Absolutely. Thanks. Thanks for the time. Of course. Thank y'all for listening to the Immigration Guy Podcast. We really appreciate it. You can find us on our website, go to You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Just search at Kyle Farmer, FLPC. Uh, you can find our law firm on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.

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