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Business Leaders Urge Congress to Act on Immigration

Business leaders in Utah say they’re disappointed in the state’s two U.S. Senator’s for trying to delay comprehensive immigration reform while the economy suffers. But Republican Senator’s Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee say they’re not ready to back a catch-all bill, especially if it contains a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Congress returned from Spring break this week with immigration reform at the top of the agenda. Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie says for members of Utah’s delegation to say they need more time is ridiculous.

“I don’t know of an issue that has more time, more discussion, more promises, more disappointment than immigration," Beattie says.

Beattie and the CEO’s of Chambers of Commerce from across the state are echoing what they say is a desperate need for high-skilled labor in the state of Utah and across the nation. Cache Chamber President and CEO Sandy Emile stressed the need for employees in the agriculture industry as well.

“We have crops that are rotting in fields," Emile says. "We have meat packing plants that are not working full steam.”

In a statement, Senator Hatch pointed to several of his legislative efforts including the Immigration Innovation Act which allows highly-educated, American-trained foreign workers to remain in the U.S. He adds, he’s working to find a guest worker solution for the country’s agriculture needs.

A bipartisan group of Senator’s known as the Gang of Eight is expected to unveil an immigration package this week. Hatch told KUER in a previous interview he’s yet to see an actual bill and he won’t back bullet points.

“When you start putting it into an actual bill form that’s when you run into all the road blocks and criticisms that inevitably arise," Hatch says. "If it’s not well thought through it may turn out to be nearly the successful bill that people think they should have.”

In a statement last week, GOP Senator Mike Lee says he's skeptical of a comprehensive bill and would like to see Congress first tackle enforcement and fixing the broken visa system.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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