Local Businesses Look Across the Border to Fill Jobs

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Now Hiring signs are becoming a more common sight all across the Western Slope, and the labor shortage is causing local businesses to look across the border for help.

Mays Concrete says this is the first year it's hired foreign guest workers, and say they've been extremely helpful.

"We have twelve guest workers this year and that added three crews to our workforce," said Pam Easterling, Human Resources Director of Mays Concrete. "We were able to accomplish a lot more work because of those three crews."

Many others are taking notice of the positive impact of guest workers. Attorney Sandra Stanley focuses on immigration law and says sectors who constantly face worker shortages like the agricultural, construction, energy, and health industries, would greatly benefit from guest workers.

"Foreign national workers bring a rich variety of education, experience, and culture to the employment place," said Stanley.

The process of bringing foreign workers in, however, can be a complicated one. To qualify for guest workers, businesses must show the US Department of Labor they are not displacing qualified American workers by bringing foreigners into the country. They also must tell the government how long the workers will be staying and for what purpose.

The entire application process can take up to a year, but businesses that have gone through it say it's worth the wait.

"It's a great program," said Easterling. "If you think it's going to work for you, I'd check it out."

The Colorado Legislature is also looking into this program. Members in both houses are debating a new bill that would make it easier for guest workers to obtain visas for farm work.

The bill has many opponents.

"I don't have a problem with people coming to America on our terms," said Senator Josh Penry (R) Fruita. "But until we make a committent of bringing immigrants here on our terms, rather than on a random come as you want, leave as you want basis, which is what we have now, I don't think we should talk about expanding it."

Senator Penry says bringing guest workers in can be a good thing, but only when the federal government cracks down on the country's immigration problems.

"I think if we were serious about enforcement, you would see the public and elected officials more eager to talk about new visa type programs," said Senator Penry.

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