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Utah News

A Push For A Bipartisan Solution For Immigrant Workers

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Like many states, Utah has more open jobs than workers to fill those jobs. Utah, Colorado, and Idaho have seen a combined 37% decrease in agriculture workers. Current and former State Senators and Representatives along with local executives recently met to talk about bipartisan immigration solutions that could possibly expand the workforce.

Due to labor shortages farmers have been forced to give away their crops and restaurants continue to struggle or shut down entirely. The bipartisan farm workforce bill, along with the Durbin-Graham Dream Act and SECURE Act, are intended to help expand the workforce in several ways. 

Shay Myers, CEO of Owyhee Produce, said that they had to waste hundreds of thousands of pounds of asparagus because of the lack of workers. 

The Farmworker Modernization Act is a way to improve the process to make it less onerous and more fluid and more proficient in allowing these workers to come," Meyers said. "These are people who contribute significant amounts to our economy and make our domestic food supply among the safest and more environmentally friendly in the world.”
 
Between the Four Corner states immigrants make up 9.1% of the population and are a key workforce for industries such as agriculture, hospitality, restaurants and healthcare. Over 136,000 immigrants have started their own businesses and undocumented immigrants in the Four Corner states pay over $1.75 billion in taxes and have a spending power of $9.6 billion according to the American Business Immigration Coalition whom organized the virtual summit.
 
US Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, said that these labor shortages are becoming more severe and hopes that a legislative agreement can be made.
 
“Immigrants are fundamental to our economy," Bennet said. "There is no reason this should be a partisan issue.” 
 
Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican from Idaho, said this is the right thing to do for the workers and the economy. 
 
“Our hope was that addressing the ag workforce modernization act, it could (serve) as a model we can use to pass other (immigration) bills," he said. "This can be a model to show that we can work together as Republicans and Democrats to try to solve this problem.”