Aspen chamber supports a ‘humane’ approach to immigration policy | AspenTimes.com

Aspen chamber supports a ‘humane’ approach to immigration policy

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s board of directors on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging U.S. immigration reform while also calling for a system that gives legal work status to “desirable” undocumented employees.

ACRA Chairman Warren Klug, general manager of Aspen Square Condominium Hotel, spearheaded the effort to create a resolution that addresses the matter. He said the resolution will be sent to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has a similar stand on the issue, as well as federal lawmakers representing Colorado.

“The immigration system in this country is broken, and people of all parties and persuasions recognize it,” the resolution reads in part. “People currently employed, paying their taxes, buying and investing in our local economies, and having no criminal record need a way to secure legal status to work.

“We urge our elected officials to take action to develop and approve a system for legalization of these desirable employees. There are thoughtful, fair, workable and employer-oriented solutions out there, and we need to pursue them,” the resolution states.

The vote was nearly unanimous, with Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley abstaining. Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland supported it, calling it a “humane” approach to the illegal-immigration problem.

Ireland said he long has favored efforts to bring undocumented workers into the fold and remove the threat of deportation even when they are temporarily unemployed while living in the United States.

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Klug said the issue is important to Aspen and its tourism-driven economy. ACRA’s board has been weighing its stance on immigration reform for the last few months, he said.

“I think immigration and the issue of the status of undocumented workers is a very important one right now, especially for resort communities, for those in the hospitality and health care industries, agriculture and others,” Klug said. “But unfortunately with politics being what they are, the whole immigration-reform issue has been pushed to the backburner in Washington and the conventional wisdom seems to be that nothing will happen until after the 2012 elections.”

ACRA’s goal, he said, is to start and participate in “a grassroots effort to help bring some of these issues to the front of the stove instead of the back, to see if we can get people talking about it and looking at practical solutions.”

A month ago, area business leaders and ACRA board members discussed the issue with White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes. She was in town for the Aspen Ideas Festival.

“Business communities are very strongly in favor of getting comprehensive immigration reform to move forward,” Barnes said in a prepared statement from ACRA. “We hear from communities like Aspen quite a bit.”

Klug said Barnes took ACRA’s concerns back to the nation’s capital.

“We’ll continue to beat the drums on this, and push our elected officials to push the White House and other organizations that might be able to help,” he said. “We’d also like to see other chambers in Colorado work with us on this.”

The ACRA board also voted to sign a “statement of principles” as outlined by the Partnership for a New American Economy. The organization is a bipartisan coalition of U.S. mayors and business leaders seeking to raise awareness of the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform.

The statement calls for securing the nation’s borders and preventing illegal immigration though tougher enforcement and better use of technology. However, it also endorses the creation of “a path to legal status” for undocumented workers living in the United States, requiring that they register with the federal government, learn English, pay taxes and follow all laws.

asalvail@aspentimes.com