“The current system is broken, and the United States cannot afford to wait any longer to fix it.” So say twenty-seven Utah GOP elected and former elected leaders who sent a letter to Utah’s congressional House delegation Thursday urging them to act on immigration reform this year.
The letter was signed by, among others, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (Republican – Sandy), Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart (Republican – Provo), and former Republican U.S. Senator from Utah Jake Garn.
They emphasized the struggles that business owners and farmers endure due to labor shortages. “The system is broken for the business owners who are unable to grow their businesses due to workforce shortages. These shortages affect both high-skill and low-skill industries alike. When these industries are stifled, so is job creation for all Americans.”
The letter added, “The system is broken for farmers who are producing below their capacity when they cannot meet their labor demands. According to the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), labor shortages in the agriculture industry are causing a loss of over $3 billion in GDP and over $1 billion in farm income.
Lawmakers also pointed to the “broad support” for immigration reform among Republican voters. “Recently, the Tea Party Express, Americans for Tax Reform, and PNAE released a poll showing that 71% of “Tea Party” aligned Republican primary voters believe it is important to pass reform this year.
“We personally understand how difficult it can be to pass complicated legislation, but it is necessary. On behalf of those farmers, ranchers, businesses, and individuals in our state supporting reform, we ask that you work with your colleagues to finalize legislation that can be passed into law this year.”
How much impact will this letter have on immigration reform passing this year? Probably not much, as Congress appears mired over the issue. The immigration bill that passed the Senate one year ago still has not cleared the House. Senator Orrin Hatch voted for the bill, while Senator Mike Lee did not.
This isn’t the first time Congress has tried to pass immigration reform. Legislation that would have provided legal status and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants went down to defeat in 2007. Both of Utah’s Senators at the time, Republicans Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, voted against the bill.
Representative Jason Chaffetz (Republican), who was previously on record as being opposed to a pathway to citizenship, told ABC 4 Utah at a town hall meeting last year that he is now in favor. “There should be a pathway to citizenship, not a special pathway, and not no pathway. There has to be a legal lawful way to go through this process that works, and right now it doesn’t.” Rep. Rob Bishop opposes a pathway to citizenship.