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Business leaders urge immigration reform

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Business leaders claim Utah's two U.S. Senators are foot dragging when it comes to immigration reform.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Business leaders had harsh words for Utah’s two U.S. Senators.

And the critical words are coming from the Chamber of Commerce.

“In Utah valley we literally have hundreds of jobs in the technology field that are unfilled right now," says Val Hale of the Utah Valley chamber of Commerce.

He claimed the Micron processing plant in Lehi had a huge demand for engineers but the jobs can't be filled.

“They're biggest concern is finding an attracting talented skilled people,” says Hale.

Hale was among several members of local Chambers of Commerce that urged support for immigration reform.

“Our immigration policy is broke,” says Lane Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

The group says high tech jobs are being lost in Utah because of the nation’s immigration policy. Hale says the number of work visas for these areas are very limited. He says 120,000 applied for a limited number of visas.

"Within 5 days they were all gone,” he says.

Sandy Emile who is the executive director of the Cache County Chamber of Commerce says the agriculture industry is dying on the vine.

“We have crops that are not being picked,” she says. “We have meat packing plants that are not working at full capacity.”

And they blame congress for not getting a policy in place. Utah's two U.S. senators were singled out by the chamber of commerce.

“I am extremely disappointed with our two senators for them to come out and acknowledge that they think we need more time is absolutely ridiculous,” says Beattie.

The group which represented the Chamber of Commerce in Davis County, Sandy City, St. George, Ogden, Salt Lake and Utah Valley is pushing for more visas for skilled engineers, scientists and laborers. But no one wants anyone deported unless they've committed crimes.

“It’s important that we establish a legal pathway (for citizenship),” says Dave Hardman of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce. “We cannot expect to deport hundreds of immigrants. It’s not possible.”

The group is calling for a common sense plan that's been debated over and over.

“When you have people that have looked at this for years and say maybe we need to slow this process down … maybe it's time for us to recall them,” says Beattie. A spokesman for U. S. Senator Orrin Hatch says “Beattie made some very misinformed and misleading comments about Sen. Hatch’s efforts to pass immigration reform.”

The prepared statement by the senator’s staff said “Beattie’s comments today are disappointing and frustrating especially considering he hasn’t discussed this with Sen. Hatch.”

The senator’s staff said the senator has introduced legislation called I-Squarred that reforms the policy for high-skilled immigrants and American-trained foreign workers.

“Furthermore, Sen. Hatch is currently engaged in ensuring our farmers and growers have the labor they need and has been working with (several senators) to find a guest worker solution,” his office said.
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