Klug: A time to speak, a time to listen | AspenTimes.com

Klug: A time to speak, a time to listen

Warren Klug
Guest Commentary

This past week I attended a town-hall meeting in Leadville, put on by our local 3rd District congressman, Scott Tipton. I appreciated the time he took to meet with constituents. It was a small and diverse group in an informal setting, and good ideas were passed all around. There was good speaking and good listening.

Several issues were noted in the session, but the key issue for me and for most of the other attendees was immigration reform. It is a hugely important issue for our nation and certainly for all of us here in the 3rd Congressional District — home to major agricultural interests, six major ski areas, and we have tourism interests districtwide.

We discussed with Tipton the House Republicans’ response to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration-reform bill with a strategy that breaks up the main issues into separate legislative pieces. This approach is workable only as long as all facets of immigration reform are addressed in a timely way. None can be pushed to the “back burner,” or the whole effort fails.

The really big issue and the one that some House members want to put off for later is how to address the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in our nation now. These are people who are employed and working now, and they are part of the fabric of our local communities. These are people who just want to work and provide better lives for their families.

They are working because their employers need them. It is essential as we look at immigration reform that we provide an avenue for legal work status and a “safe harbor” for a worker’s immediate family. There should be conditions and requirements such as that they must be employed, be paying taxes as required, have no criminal record and pay reasonable fees to make the “legal work status” program cost-neutral.

In the end, as enforcement comes into being through the E-Verify system, we must protect both the currently undocumented workers and their employers by providing a process for legal status to work. We also must not preclude these same people from working toward earned citizenship in the future, again with fair conditions and requirements as have been proposed.

At Tipton’s town-hall meeting, we presented our input on the need for legal status for the 11 million working and law-abiding undocumented immigrants who qualify. With Tipton planning a visit to our area later in September for a business round table, we can talk further about these ideas and the needs of businesses in the 3rd District.

Americans are compassionate people. We care about others, and we want to do the right thing. As Tipton said, there is no one who truly wants to “round them up and send them home” as a solution to addressing the 11 million people. They are here, most are employed, and we need to deal positively with them. They are employed because they are needed.

As we seek humane solutions, we also need to assure businesses large and small that they can attract and legally hire the people they need. Congressional studies have shown that there are positive economic results from addressing the undocumented workers in our midst. And surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the American public wants this to happen.

Tipton needs to hear from all of us in business who value the immigrants in our communities and with whom we work. This is a humane issue and a business issue. I believe Tipton is open to our ideas and truly wants to pursue responsible solutions. Let’s help make that happen.

Warren Klug is general manager of Aspen Square and an Aspen Chamber Resort Association board member.