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Bipartisan Group Highlights Immigrants' Economic Impact

Whittney Evans
From left to right: Utah Republican Senator Todd Weiler, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Amy Winder Newton, Jorge Fierro, owner of Rico Brands and Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke.

Community leaders on both sides of the aisle came together Tuesday morning to stress the positive impact immigrants have on Utah’s economy. The press conference came hours after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security laid out policies the Trump administration is implementing to more aggressively detain and deport illegal immigrants.

Business owners, farmers, ecclesiastical leaders and elected officials are calling on Utah’s congressional delegation to enact compassionate immigration reform. Ron Gibson is a dairy farmer in Weber County and president of the Utah Farm Bureau.

“We have to have a way to have guest workers here that can come to the United States of America and help us succeed in feeding the hungry people throughout the world,” Gibson said.

Gibson said he employs immigrants who are highly-trained dietitians, animal care specialists and horticulturists—all positions he has a hard time finding locally.

Jorge Fierro owns food manufacturer Rico Brands. He came to the U.S. in 1985. He told reporters that he wants other immigrants like himself to have the same success he’s achieved in this country. 

“By closing the doors and by making immigrants the enemy, it’s not going to solve any problems,” Fierro said.

Former Utah Republican Party Chairman and former State School Board member Stan Lockhart said Utah’s congressional delegation should be looking for ways to streamline the immigration process.

“Yes we need to vet them,” Lockhart said. “There are bad people who want to come and they shouldn’t be able to come. But if you’re seeking freedom of any kind and you want to raise your family in America where they can be free, the land of the free and the home of the brave, then we should let them in.”

The New American Economy is a bipartisan coalition that supports immigration reform. The group released a new report that maps the contributions immigrants have in all 50 states. In Salt Lake City Metro Area alone, the report shows immigrants paid roughly $700 million in state, local and federal taxes in 2014. 

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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