Immigration reform is a top 2007 priority |

Immigration reform is a top 2007 priority

December is a hectic month for most Summit County residents. At businesses in and around the ski resorts it is ‘all hands on deck’ as restaurants, hotels and resorts fill with holiday guests. Perhaps that is why there has been so little attention paid to the recent Homeland Security roundup of 1,300 immigrant workers in six states, including Utah.

Residents in the Cache Valley however, are keenly aware of the chaos and emotional upheaval left in the wake of the Dec. 12 raid on Hyrum’s Swift Meatpacking plant.

Among the 154 detainees were parents whose children were left behind and many others who were the sole supporters of their households. Since then, local churches and volunteers have been scrambling to provide assistance to the families that were shattered after the arrests.

According to Homeland Security official Michael Chertoff, the arrests were part of a renewed effort to crack down on illegal immigration. Swift & Company officials, however, claim they have been caught in a Catch 22. They say when they instituted tougher identification policies, the company was accused of discrimination and when they complained that a federal program for ferreting out fake IDs was inadequate they were targeted for enforcement.

That predicament is one that employers around the country probably understand. Park City business owners, for instance, rely heavily on immigrant workers, especially during this part of the season. Most go to great lengths to verify their employees’ eligibility to work legally in the United States, but almost all would admit that the current laws make full compliance difficult if not impossible.

Foremost among the causes of today’s immigration crisis is the shortage of legally obtainable work permits.

That imbalance feeds an underground of illegal activity including smuggling of illegal workers and document forgery. That, in turn victimizes both the employers and employees, making both more vulnerable to those with criminal intent.

Over the last decade an increasing number of immigrants have moved to Park City to join the workforce. They have become a vital part of the economy and the community.

It is, therefore, essential that local leaders push state and federal politicians for increased work permit quotas, more expeditious application processes and humane enforcement efforts that hold employers as accountable as employees.

On the state level, legislators at one time were moving in the right direction by offering immigrants a means to obtain driver licenses. Unfortunately, that law was revoked in a later session. But the state legislature begins its new session next month citizens should press their representatives to revisit that issue.

The real reforms, though, must take place at the federal level. Instead of throwing money at a wall along the border or on onerous raids, voters should tell their Congressmen (U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon along with Senators Orrin Hatch and BobBennett) to take a good look at the nation’s labor shortage and to craft an immigration policy that could benefit both the industries hunting for laborers and the immigrants desperately seeking better paying jobs.

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