Lawmakers push to cut migrant red tape
August 31, 2007
DENVER ” A Republican and a Democratic lawmaker say they will continue to push a plan to help migrant farmworkers cut through visa red tape because their labor is needed.
Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, and Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, said they met with considerable opposition from others in both houses of the Legislature.
“We’re really talking about economic development in the biggest industry that we have in Colorado,” Tapia said. “It’s not the best issue to take on politically, but I feel a need to explore it as far as I can. The party is telling me this doesn’t poll very well, so they’re concerned about what I might be proposing,” Tapia told the Pueblo Chieftain.
Looper, who’s leading the charge for more migrant workers, has been traveling from meeting to meeting across the Front Range asking questions about the idea.
“We need to find out how big the problem is, and then what proposals are out there about what we can do about it,” Looper said. “At the same time, we’ve got to get out there and set the record straight. We’re not talking about setting up our own guest-worker program. We may not even be talking about needing our own legislation. We might be able to do it with just a few more state workers.”
Their proposal would use either a state or private company to assist workers fill out the paper work necessary to get an H-2A visa, aimed at bringing farm labor to the U.S.
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Companies in several sectors of the Colorado economy have reported a shortage of labor, and some blame it on a crackdown on illegal workers.
Looper and Tapia say many opponents of reforming migrant-labor laws haven’t read the fine print, and don’t realize how complicated it would remain.
“I guess they’re just afraid we’re going to open an office in Mexico City telling people we’ll give you free housing, free medical. That’s not even close to what we’re thinking of doing,” Tapia said.