Executives in Colorado advocate for policies that advance economy
Business leaders in Colorado have a message for the incoming Congress: Responsible, “common sense” immigration reform is overdue — and that doesn’t mean the mass deportations floated by President-elect Donald Trump.
“This is a great opportunity to get the immigration reform we need for our economy right,” said Mizraim Cordero, vice president of government affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. “There should be less focus on a broader deportation effort and more focus put on what are the policies that will move our economy forward.”
A broad coalition of business and community leaders gathered Tuesday to launch Coloradans for Immigration Reform, an initiative of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national bipartisan organization that supports comprehensive immigration reform.
In addition to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, coalition members include Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, Colorado Restaurant Association, Associated General Contractors of Colorado, Associated Builders and Contractors Rocky Mountain, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Asian Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Business Roundtable, Colorado Competitive Council, Mountain West Credit Union Association, Pro 15 and South Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
On a national level, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Disney CEO Bob Iger and leaders at Boeing and Marriott are among the partnership’s co-chairs.
“It’s time to really put a spotlight on this particular issue and start to drive realistic ideas that put forward a plan for true reform,” said Jeff Wasden, president of the Colorado Business Roundtable. “It’s not building walls. It’s creating the types of policies and putting things in place that actually get to the root cause of the problems.”
The coalition is advocating for a wide variety of reforms, including efforts to secure U.S. borders, streamline processes for employers to both get foreign workers and verify employment eligibility, and to create a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
In Colorado, immigrants make up 10 percent of the state’s population and paid $1 billion in taxes in 2014, according to a recent study by NAE.
The state’s agricultural producers continue to struggle to get workers when they need them under the current “broken” system, said Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau.
“If the United States had a viable guest agricultural worker program, farmers and ranchers could get the labor they need. Instead, they’re all too often caught in a bureaucratic nightmare,” he said. “This nightmare that Colorado farmers and ranchers face is a current immigration system that responds to requests far too slowly, fails to follow visa holders through expiration and turns away high- and low-skilled workers far too often.”