Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (CO) and Republican Rep. Mike Simpson (ID-02) joined agricultural, business, education, and civic leaders from Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Arizona to urge Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, other members of the region’s Senate delegation to support bipartisan immigration solutions at Intermountain Rising: Strengthening Our Workforce Through Bipartisan Immigration Solutions. They discussed how immigration solutions, including the bipartisan farm workforce bill being developed by Senators Bennet and Crapo, the bipartisan Durbin-Graham Dream Act, and the SECURE Act, will help expand our workforce, bring certainty to employers and families, and help the region roar back from the pandemic. For a link to the recording, click here.
Speakers included Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO); Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID-02), Arizona State Representative Michelle Udall (R-LD 25); Bob Worsley, Former Arizona State Senator (R) and ABIC Co-Chair; Jordan Rolfe, Chief Operating Officer, Olson’s Greenhouse Gardens, based in Salem, UT; Noelle Cockett, President, Utah State University; Rick Naerebout, Chief Executive Officer, Idaho Dairymen’s Association; Stan Marek, Chief Executive Officer, MAREK; Joe Clayton, Owner, Clayton Tree Farm LLC in Wilder, ID; Shay Myers, CEO of Owyhee Produce in Parma, ID; Eliana Ramirez Gavilan, Technological Quality Control, Owyhee Produce; and Rebecca Shi, Executive Director, American Business Immigration Coalition.
This event was sponsored by the Intermountain Chapter of the American Business Immigration Coalition, the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, AmericanHort and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
In Utah, there are more jobs available than people to fill them. In Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, the farm labor workforce has shrunk by almost 37%, with Arizona not far behind. This was before the pandemic. The Intermountain region has struggled with labor shortages for years, leaving employers across industries — from farming and hospitality to restaurants and healthcare — unable to find the workers they need to grow and thrive. Today, acute labor shortages are forcing farmers to give away their crops, while restaurants continue to shut down and casinos in Colorado can’t even get applications for open positions. Arizona expects a shortage of 150,000 construction workers by 2022.
QUOTES FROM THE EVENT BELOW. TO WATCH ENTIRE VIDEO, CLICK HERE.
US Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) said during the event: “Immigrants are fundamental to our economy. There is no reason this should be a partisan issue. When I travel across my state I hear all the time from small businesses, ski resorts, farmers and ranchers, many of whom are Republican, that they don’t have the skilled labor they need…These shortages have only become more severe. I’m hopeful that we can come to an agreement on legislation that supports Dreamers, TPS recipients and farmworkers to create more stability for people, businesses, farmers and ranchers across America.”
US Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID-02) said during the event: “It’s the right thing to do for the workers and for the economy…It is not amnesty. What it is is earned citizenship. Our hope was that addressing the ag workforce modernization act, it could (serve) as a model we can use to pass other (immigration) bills This can be a model to show that we can work together as Republicans and Democrats to try to solve this problem.
Rep. Michelle Udall, Arizona State Representative (R-D25), said during the event: “When we think about immigration, especially on the Republican side of things, we have to stand up with courage and say that this is the right thing to do. And we’re going to have to do it with conviction and with the support of faith leaders, business leaders and immigrants…We have a responsibility to fix it.”
Bob Worsley, Former Arizona State Senator (R) and ABIC Board Member, said during the event: “The elements of a deal are here and the only question is are people going to urgently act together to make a deal move forward. Republicans need to come to the table with the intent of making a deal. Democrats need to negotiate the details in good faith.”
Rick Naerebout, CEO, Idaho Dairymen’s Association, said during the event: “We are proud in Idaho to have Senator Crapo who is working with Senator Bennet on a bipartisan effort in the Senate for a companion piece of legislation that will help move this issue forward…We really look to the bipartisan companion legislation to be a solution to the huge labor problems we face in the dairy industry.”
Noelle E. Cockett, President of Utah State University, said during the event: “Because the students are undocumented, they are not eligible to be approved for the FAFSA financial aid application. That means that these students cannot receive federal aid in the way of Pell grants and loans. Because they cannot complete the FAFSA application, they are not eligible for work-study and are not eligible to receive university-supported scholarships…In the face of all these barriers, they are still pursuing a college education…I want to do whatever I can to support them. Please help me by passing the Durbin-Graham Dream Act and the SECURE Act. It is absolutely the way to go. ”
Jordan Rolfe, Chief Operating Officer, Olson’s Greenhouse Gardens, said during the event: “I can’t think of a bigger national security crisis than getting to the point where we are unable to produce and harvest sufficient crops to take care of ourselves, and that is where the current system is taking us, either by putting farmers out of business or making it so difficult for them that they choose to sell the farm and get out. Our employees are what makes us successful and allows us to provide our products to the American people. We are pleased with Senators Crapo and Bennett for providing leadership on this and we urge our other senators in the region to lend their support.”
Shay Myers, CEO, Owyhee Produce, said during the event: “We hope to never run into a situation like we did last year where we are wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of asparagus because we cannot find the 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…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.”
Immigrants are the backbone of the Intermountain economy.
Immigrants make up 9.1% of the population in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, and power key industries including agriculture, hospitality, restaurants and healthcare.
The Agricultural industry holds a large share of immigrant workers in the Intermountain region. Farmworkers grow, pack, and supply our food amid a lethal pandemic; they labor in extreme heat, wildfires, and toxic pesticides; they feed us. The growing shortage in farmworkers has yielded to massive crop loses and put our food supply at risk.
Over 136,000 immigrants have started their own businesses in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, stimulating their local economies, creating jobs, and contributing more than $3.5 billion in business income.
Dreamers – Only some of whom have DACA — have been on the frontlines of the pandemic and deserve a path to citizenship. There are more than 63,000 DACA recipients in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
TPS holders — Many are homeowners, business owners, workers, and parents of U.S. citizen children. There are 411,000 TPS holders —including 6,462 living in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona — who have been living and contributing to our communities for 10, 20, and even 30 years.
The American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) Intermountain Chapter represents a growing group of business, faith, and immigrant advocates from Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Nevada. Home to over 2 million immigrants, our Intermountain region benefits by almost $100 billion annually from the economic contributions and talents of these individuals, and we believe that with the right legislative solutions, they will continue to play a key role in our economy and our region’s future.
The American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens.