Work-visa shortage impacts local economy | ParkRecord.com

Work-visa shortage impacts local economy

Bill Malone and Dana Williams

It is no secret that the United States is in dire need of immigration reform. Which is why, as leaders of the Park City community, we write to urge Senators Hatch and Lee to pass substantial, broad-based immigration reform.

Both sides of the aisle in Washington seem to agree that our immigration system is broken and incredibly outdated. Unfortunately, we have seen Congress in the past agree that there is a problem, yet allow partisan bickering get in the way of a solution. We cannot let this happen the consequences of inaction are too big.

In our home of Park City, the economy is greatly driven by the hospitality industry, and without a prosperous tourist season our economy would suffer greatly. In many ways, Park City’s thriving and diverse immigrant population is vital to this tourist economy. However, with a more flexible and up-to-date immigration system, Park City’s economy could be doing much better.

Right now in the U.S., only 7 percent of all visas are granted for work-related reasons. As a nation we need to greatly improve this number, particularly in places like Park City where the need for temporary, seasonal workers is great. Our current visa system is too rigid to allow for the ebb and flow of labor needs. We need to put in place a more flexible visa allotment system and we need to expand the number of employment-based visas that are issued each year. We have hotels, resorts, and restaurants that sit at less than full capacity because we cannot hire enough workers to fill our employment needs. During peak tourist seasons when U.S. workers are sparse, Park City needs more temporary visas. This small fix has the capacity to give our economy a much-needed boost.

Additionally, many international tourists who visit our community complain about the visa process. It is essential that we improve our guests’ visa experience. By modernizing the system, they will most likely have a more enjoyable time in our area and want to visit again, thus adding revenue to our local economy.

We also need to ensure that our immigration laws are enforced and obeyed. A more modern immigration system will use technology to monitor all who come and go from the United States. We must have borders that are secure and ensure that our borders remain secure. And last but not least, we must give employers every tool in the box so they know that, when they hire someone, they are legal and documented workers. To do anything to the contrary is unfair to Park City’s employers.

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These seemingly commonsense solutions are not radical or difficult in any way. They are a win-win scenario for our nation’s workers, employers and the immigrants who want to come to the United States to start a better life.

We need leaders on this issue now to make sure we do not keep pushing this problem off to future generations. We need real and substantial immigration reform now, not just because it is the right thing to do, but also the best action for our economy. This is why we urge Senator Hatch and Senator Lee to be leaders on this issue and to do the right thing for Utah and Utah’s economy.

Bill Malone is the president & CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau. Dana Williams is the mayor of Park City.